Hong Kong Democracy: The Umbrella Revolution

Hong Kong Democracy and Umbrella Revolution-16

Upon first glance, the sight of demonstrations in Hong Kong is enough to take the breath away: another crystallizing moment in the territory’s rich history.  It is a beautiful thing to see; young and old united for a cause…especially one important as democracy and freedom.

Yet like Hong Kong history, the protests are just one of many layers of complexity.

Hong Kong Democracy and Umbrella Revolution-13

There is a very symbiotic relationship between Hong Kong and China.  Hong Kong is, and will continue to be, the Jewel of China.  Both sides have prospered and both sides have benefitted, at times, in spite of each other.

Hong Kong Democracy and Umbrella Revolution-3

With passions riding high in the territory, both sides can ill afford to miscalculate.  Chief Executive, C.Y. Leung and the Chief of Police found that out early Monday morning (29-Sep), with their infamous use of tear gas.

Hong Kong has never had a true democracy.  Under British rule, Hong Kong was far away from a democracy.

Hong Kong Democracy and Umbrella Revolution-28

One of the lesser-known stories about the handover is that the Chinese government were the ones to initially introduced the idea of democracy to Hong Kong.  This is where the complexities arise.

In 1990 when democracy became part of the Basic Law (The HK Constitution), spelling out that the Chief Executive would be elected by universal suffrage – it also contained the slightly ambiguous statement “upon nomination by a broadly representative nominating committee in accordance with democratic procedures.

Hong Kong Democracy and Umbrella Revolution-21

There is a very fine line being walked on both sides right now.

The issue in Hong Kong is that as China’s power and wealth has grown; there is this slight feeling that Hong Kong’s freedoms and liberties are slowly being compromised.  This is a major concern.  Yes, the strings being pulled originates from Beijing, but is this why Hong Kong should be worried?

Hong Kong Democracy and Umbrella Revolution-17

Beijing is not the enemy; the enemies are the Hong Kong leaders who are willing sell out the soul of the city for the right price, forgetting their roots.

C.Y. Leung this is on you and your team.

Hong Kong Democracy and Umbrella Revolution-12

Amid the passion and fear within the protest, it is possible for Hong Kong and China to have a tenuous but harmonious relationship.  Basically the same one it has had for almost two centuries.

Hong Kong Democracy and Umbrella Revolution-7

But to have this, Hong Kong needs true leaders.  In the hearts of the majority in Hong Kong, C.Y. Leung has done irreparable damage and can no longer lead effectively.

It is also time for Hong Kong leaders to look in the mirror.  Do you see in yourself the disgrace of the Chief of Police who reverted to the use of tear gas and riot police on that fateful Sunday night on 28-Sep?  The night that tore at the hearts of the people of Hong Kong?  If so, please leave.

Hong Kong Democracy and Umbrella Revolution-15

For the people who built Hong Kong and through their sweat, tears and toil to make it into the greatest city in the WORLD, they deserve better.

Hong Kong Democracy and Umbrella Revolution-5

People like C.Y. Leung and business leaders who are pro-Beijing for the sole/soul purpose of making obscene profits are our real enemy.  I use the word “our” with pride, as a decade ago when I collected my Permanent Resident HK ID Card it was an amazing feeling; a feeling similar with the pride I feel today wearing my black shirt and yellow ribbon signifying voices need to be heard.

Hong Kong Democracy and Umbrella Revolution-11

PEACE is the word.  It is what the protesters want, it is what the people want.

To the student leader, Joshua Wong: from all accounts, you are brave and brilliant as a co-leader of this movement.  It is important to listen to all voices in Hong Kong. Change needs to happen in peace.

Hong Kong Democracy and Umbrella Revolution-19

You showed your age of seventeen when suggesting breaking into and occupying the Government Offices. I am grateful you stopped, listened to those with experience.

My hope is the people around C.Y. Leung can talk similar sense into him, and he will be a true leader and listen…and understand he needs to bravely vanquish his office.

Hong Kong Democracy and Umbrella Revolution-22

World governments will continue their politics as usual, with satirist Stephen Colbert of the USA perhaps making the most astute political comment about the protests:

“Think hard, China.  You can either crush these protesters under your heel, or you can give them the rights you promised them, because whichever choice you make, America will still do business with you.”    ~ Stephen Colbert

Hong Kong Democracy and Umbrella Revolution-14

This is the harsh reality, even with the people of the world taking heart in the message, the spirit and voices of Hong Kong.

In the end, the outcome is up to the people of this territory. It is up to the leaders of Hong Kong to find their courage, to be the True Patriots they signed up to be. It is up to the protesters on the streets, and the people who are shaken by what is developing here.

Hong Kong Democracy and Umbrella Revolution-25

For the leaders of Hong Kong, it is time to be the brave heroes that you can be. To follow your Hong Kong ancestors: be authentic like your Hong Kong sons/brothers & daughters/sisters who look to you for guidance.

Hong Kong is united,
The People’s voice has spoken…
Voices will be heard,
Their hearts remain unbroken.

Hong Kong Democracy and Umbrella Revolution-24

For all leaders of Hong Kong, it should not be a secret now: Hong Kong needs democratic realists not dreamers.  Leaders who understand the situation, and not those who spew rhetoric.  Extremists on both sides do nothing but hurt Hong Kong.

Do not fight with Beijing just because “they are Beijing.” Instead fight for the betterment of Hong Kong, this is our problem, let’s resolve it.

Hong Kong Democracy and Umbrella Revolution-8

It is true that protesters are on edge right now. Increased skirmishes and frustrated residents along with typical political tactics on both sides will continue to test these protesters.

Have heart. We are with you.

Hong Kong Democracy and Umbrella Revolution-2

The greatest hope for all: the only tears to be shed will be those of happiness.

This little boy was in awe of the night ~ fascinated by all that is around him...

This little boy was in awe of the night ~ fascinated by all that is around him…

 

Spirits sky high at the beginning of the week, are on the edge as a new week approaches...

Spirits were sky-high at the beginning of the week, now on the edge as a new week approaches…

 

Drones...friend or foe?!?

Drones…and media, make this a protest watched from every angle…

The Umbrella Revolution ~ laying down the roadwork for PEACE and unity with Beijing.

The Umbrella Revolution ~ laying down the framework for PEACE and universal suffrage with Beijing.

Hong Kong: The Pulse of Life

Hunan China Performance Troupe-14

There are days where no matter how I get out of bed, every side is the wrong side.

Days where the dreary drone of jumbled words fill the mind and accompanies me as I sleep walk through the day.  A day, regardless of what my calendar tells me, is a week of  full of Monday mornings.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-2

Since returning to Hong Kong last week, my typical day has been where eyes half-closed and stumbling toward the bathroom, the corner of the bed is somehow sticking out a ½ inch further than it normally does…and bam.

The day has me defeated within the first minute of waking.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-10

Of course, when such days arrive, the first thought that comes to mind is that amused one we’ve all asked ourselves at one point or another: “why even venture further, just turn around and go back to bed.”

But it is always the second thought that keeps me moving: “Coffee…”

Hunan China Performance Troupe-3

That first sip is usually what I need to get me out the door, and while I bumble and laugh myself through the day, I know such strangeness will be over when I crawl back in bed and travel to dreamland…

The minute I close my eyes, I consider it a start of a new day and there is nothing like a great dream for it to begin anew.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-9

“Who does not love wine, women and song
Remains a fool his whole life long.”  ~ Johann Voss

Now, if I had the power to control the plot of my dreams I would have to say the above quote comes pretty close to how I’d like mine to flow. A dream where I am a carefree spirit, loving the simple things and able to enjoy this realm where I can feel the pulse of life.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-13

My dream takes me to a place in Hunan Province…among the TuJia minority, people after my own heart as their focus is on music, dancing and their wine: a culture similar in many ways to the spirit of the West.  Relying on the trust and joy of friends and family, finding what is needed from the land and life so they can share their joy.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-11

While in Hunan, I met up with a group of friends who perform shows about their TuJia minority culture.  One night at dinner, among all the stories being passed around was the one where the leader of the troupe is given a hard time because he married “very late” at the age of 31 years old.

His reason was simple: “I couldn’t sing well enough…so no girl wanted me” and with his laughter he started the clashing of glasses of homemade moonshine…and looked at me smiling saying “really it is true!” beside him his wife smiling, nodded her head vigorously in agreement.

Nothing quite like Hunan spices and homemade firewater to wake-up the senses.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-15

Waking up the senses. Feeling the Pulse of Life. The remedy for this dreary feeling I’ve had since returning to Hong Kong is one I have used before: simply sit back, become entranced and Let The Show Begin

Watching the performance of my friends was simply mesmerizing. It is as if I stole a bit of their adrenaline in each act…and feel a bit guilty at this theft, but it is the good kind of guilt.  For their gift to us all is an abundance of adrenaline and inspiration out there for all to take.

The feeling, the dream and dance, it is brilliant and a bit addicting.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-8

There is a saying within the TuJia culture that goes something like this: “only through music and dance can one run away without leaving home.” Which perhaps explains why the people remain so close-knit, and why there is such incredible madness and passion when they perform.

Hunan, famous for their spices and hospitality, and the Tujia people whose culture encapsulates the carefree spirit of dreams and desires.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-6

As I exit the show within my dream, the cool, crisp air of the morning greets me and gives me a deserved slap in the face.  With the potential of the day ahead, and I’m ready to experience the best of Hong Kong and China.

My shorts and t-shirt once again have to be replaced with a more sensible business attire, but on the inside, the youthful spirit is back to see what else the world can bring.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-5

Dreams are what we need to re-energize and understand that we’d be foolish not to enjoy the good things life throws our way. “Wine, women and song” is the simple thought the spirit of life brings to remind us who we are.

Here in Hong Kong, the hard work and dedication of its population to build a great life is the focus, but every now and then it is necessary to reassess where we are and pursue the freedom that life beckons.  It is that jolt we sometimes need; a dream that jolts us awake as we fall, guaranteeing there will never be a dull moment.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-12

The unconscious performer, lost in dream and taking us along for the inspirational ride.

Youthful spirits taking up a cause only their idealistic minds can fully understand… and it is more than just a performance, it is the essence of life.

Creativity is at the core of us all, and it is the mind of the young which allow us to evolve and build a better place.

Better for ourselves, for our family and for our friends.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-1

There simply is not a better way to live than with happiness in our hearts, and when that inevitable day comes where it feels like nothing is going right, step inside a live performance and get lost.

Find again that fury which is the pulse of life.

Hunan China Performance Troupe-4

Sing a song of Beauty
Sing a song of Truth
Live the life of Liberty
Where Freedom will take root…
 
Hunan China Performance Troupe-7

 

Don’t Die Wondering…

Pacific Northwest Nature-5

Sitting along the shore of Elliott Bay, I often wonder what it would have been like centuries ago when Native Americans spent the summertime in Seattle.  The Seattle summer with its perfect weather is special, so I imagine it would have been heaven on earth to see the sun setting on this land so long ago when the wilderness ruled.

Pacific Northwest Nature-12

Back in those days, getting outside and involved was not much of a question as physical interaction with nature was a part of everyday life.  A hard life no doubt, but I would bet more satisfying too as everything you owned likely came from the things around you: animals, earth and community.

Animals and earth to feed and clothe, and a community to share, love, explore and work the land.

Pacific Northwest Nature-13Not quite the same scene we have today, where two minutes “on-line” results in the delivery of food, clothing and most importantly the latest tech-toy delivered right to the front door without having to leave the house.

Products produced by factories scattered all over the globe. A crazy concept even today, something unthinkable a couple hundred years ago. Most everything I own I have no real clue as to its true origin.

Pacific Northwest Nature-1Still, amid all this technology and social media shrill that drowns our senses from the calls of the real world, there are always reminders that take us out of this artificial shell and plop us down in the middle of life.  Something to makes us reassess our obsession with material possessions.

The nudge of a wet nose from Man’s Best Friend, or driving through a mountain pass with the sun dipping below the horizon is just what is needed for us to get back to the basics. Back to the feeling of living.

Pacific Northwest Nature-2

The past few weeks have had me traveling around the Pacific Northwest with work, and instead of flying I made a point to drive; taking the more scenic routes and allowing myself a few more days to take in the sights.

My mind spinning a bit as I would try to reconcile life today with how it was more than 100 years ago. Getting lost in how different things are today made me wonder what the next 100 years will bring…and how foreign our time today will appear to our future selves.

Pacific Northwest Nature-3Back to the early 90s, when I took off for China for the first time, I had this small sticker on my bag that read: Don’t Die Wondering.

The message the sticker represented fascinated me, as I loved to wonder…in fact, I was more often in dream than I was running around nature. The message reminded me that dreaming and wondering is just part of the formula, and moving forward by doing and experiencing is how we complete the circle and find a happy life.

Pacific Northwest Nature-8I still have this sticker and message, and more than ever realize how important this simple slogan is: to wonder, to dream and to go out and do.  To create a unique path in life. For the most part, I imagine that people in history also followed this same simple line of reasoning.

A reminder that it is a never-ending process.

Wonder. Dream. Do. Happiness.

Pacific Northwest Nature-11

Pacific Northwest Nature-4 I suppose that the message on this sticker was a simple warning that if we spend too much of our time wondering what could have been? With the mind spinning to answer the unanswerable, “what if?” It is easy to get lost in the irrelevant past while new opportunities slip by.

Why sit wondering what it would be like, when adventures and experiences lie right outside the door?

Pacific Northwest Nature-7It will be impossible to fully understand what Native Americans or frontiersmen of the past thought when they saw the dawn rise every day over Seattle hundreds of years ago, but I imagine it must have recharged them.

A perfect start to the day, a time to admire the land and contemplate what was to be explored and admired.  With no TV or Internet to tempt and waste hours of a day, I would think it must have been exciting to be immersed in nature as a part of daily life.  True, such a life would be hard, but in a sense also simple.

Pacific Northwest Nature-10As this great summer winds down, I am left thinking that we will continue to push ourselves further away from this great land of ours, with the result of losing touch with the physical nature of living.

As we load ourselves up with processed foods and mass-produced ‘emotions’ emitting from our screens, at some point we will begin wondering what could have been ~ what if we had moved forward and taken the advice from a 30-year-old sticker: Don’t Die Wondering.

Pacific Northwest Nature-6

Looking forward to seeing my Special Ed friends this year at the Pendleton Round-Up, and to quote one of the happiest faces I have ever seen at the early morning Cowboy Breakfast “This is my favorite time of year…even better than Christmas!”

Looking forward to seeing my Special Ed friends this year at the Pendleton Round-Up, and to quote from one of the happiest smiles I have ever seen from them at the early morning Cowboy Breakfast: “This is my favorite time of year…even better than Christmas!”

 

 

 

Positive Envy

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-3

There is an old saying I think about every now and then: “the grass is always greener on the other side.”

Not so much for its meaning of someone desiring something they believe would improve his or her life, yet in reality would not.  Instead, it is because I think about where I am now, and the possibilities of what could be.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-7

To dream of being in a totally different situation, wondering how great life would be compared to the current situation is intriguing.  The mind is unrealistically focused on what could be gained, with little attention to what would be lost.

A poor example of this: my memory as a kid on a family vacation sitting at a restaurant for breakfast. I would always order the French toast and upon the arrival of the food, look on in envy as my twin sister’s stack of blueberry pancakes taunted me…those pancakes topped with whipped cream looked so much better than my wimpy French toast.

Nothing's Changed...

Nothing’s Changed…

Don't I have a GREAT Sister...

Don’t I have a GREAT Sister…

Didn’t matter that I loved French toast and it always tasted great, for I couldn’t think of anything else except my stomach growling with envy.

Fortunately, it never failed that my little sister would give me a small bite of her pancakes to make me happy (and also get a laugh at the whipped cream that would inevitably find its way to the tip of my nose), and life would be good again.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-17

Such a simple memory, but one of many that demonstrates to me the endless possibilities the mind creates. Hammering home the moral of being happy with what you have and how ridiculous it is to have petty envy.

When positive thinking fuels the mind, things tend to work themselves out.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-12

Over the years, I think most people come to understand it never pays to feel or act on petty-envy or the negatives that “the grass is always greener…” may inspire.  However, I think envy in itself is not bad, as there is still a piece of this feeling that is worth exploring further: “positive envy.”

Comparing a situation with one that is perceived to be better can create a sense of hope; triggering a new dream to inspire. I find inspiration in stories, movies and photographs from all over the world, where I have this feeling of “the grass is always greener…” but understand I can create something similar in my life.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-6

Positive Envy is the excitement at discovering something new from another source and creating a drive to move people up to a higher level (no matter how small).

My favorite definition of this feeling is this clip from the movie Vision Quest: seeing and experiencing something so spectacular, that it lifts the spirit to a higher level of existence. Once this emotion is felt, it is impossible not to develop a drive and try to achieve such a moment yourself.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-14

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-16

There are many such vision quests in life, and for me seeing places I may never visit ~ but through photographs, videos and stories, it becomes easy to imagine myself creating a life there. Positive envy of someone experiencing such a different way of life brings adventure into my day.

As mentioned in an earlier writing, Let The Show Begin…, photography, music and sports are just two examples where inspiration thrives.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-878

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-9

Recently, I traveled to Dongchuan, Yunnan in SW China and arranged a home stay; a perfect way to get a glimpse into the life of locals. There were a few older people I met who shared their stories, their struggles and mostly their simple brilliance of happiness that they had collected over their lifetime.

Sharing a part of their history, through their words I could imagine the very time/place/emotions to a point where it felt as if I had lived that life alongside them.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-13

A very powerful feeling, and while I imagined how great it would be to experience such a place in time; what I appreciated most was the glimpse at the scope of possibilities of people everywhere.

Positive Envy.

Humans have a pretty incredible stretch of capabilities, and while the ideal of accumulating great material wealth is an overriding dream for many…it is usually those who seek a simpler route that find a greater sense of happiness.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-5

A controlled environment tends to pull us all in one direction: “nose to the grindstone” seems to be its mantra, and it is usually led by a group of elitists restricting our freedoms.

To avoid this lunatic fringe that permeates politics and many parts of society, listen to the words of Joseph Campbell and enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path.  Avoid the well-worn path as the road often traveled tends to entice and then subdue the spirit.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-1

In all, I figure that while the “grass may seem greener elsewhere” we attach ourselves to where we are most comfortable.  It is good to explore, to get out and see what is out there…but in the end, it is tough to beat home.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-20

Even when things may look bleak, there is always a smile to brighten the day.  I sat one late afternoon watching the energy of this old man, amid a group of locals sharing his stories. “I can’t afford to be sad because right now is all I may have…and I’ve been saying this for more than 10 years!” and he laughed which made everyone laugh.

If the time ever comes when I am missing all my teeth, I’ll accept it…but until then I will make sure to enjoy the feel of biting into a crisp apple during a hot day.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-8

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-777

“The grass is always greener…” It is a difficult proverb to dissect, because there are so many ways to look at it. Here in Dongchuan, most of the people in this village dream of their children being able to live in Hong Kong (or any Chinese metropolis), as these cities have a higher standard of living.

I can understand this. These are significant dreams to have, and it can fuel positive envy: a flow of ideas that lead to a realm of unimaginable successes.  Wherever the dream flows, a happy child is the real goal.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-10

I suppose that is the magic of life. At some point in time, it is necessary for the soul to search and begin its own Vision Quest.  To lift those around you to a higher level of happiness.  What that quest is and where it flows varies greatly among us all.

With that said, sometimes the grass is actually greener, and if possible, worth checking out for yourself.

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-19

Yunnan Red Soil Positive Envy-4

Men in Management – Myanmar and Beyond

Myanmar - Yangon Men In Management-1

“Progress isn’t made by early risers.
It’s made by lazy men trying to find easier ways to do something.” 
~Robert A. Heinlein

What more needs to be said?  This is a perfect quote.

For us men, we take to heart the point of “while appearing lazy, we actually accomplish a lot.”  A thought I toasted many a beer to during travels in Myanmar with our guide Mr. Thu.

Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-2

Conversely, my sister Sandi and our other guide in Myanmar, Ms. Kay-K, had the opposing view, and while they agreed with the first part of the assessment of “being lazy”, they vehemently disagreed with the last part where men actually accomplish anything.

In fact, if I remember correctly, Kay-K’s comment was simply “men accomplishing something?!?” before she broke out in laughter along with my sister.

Inle Lake Myanmar - Men In Management-3

It was at this point I realized this may be a long trip.  The banter began the first day during our drive out into the countryside and witnessing an endless amount of roadwork taking place.

The roadwork included strenuous labor; baskets and baskets of rocks being carried to-and-fro, digging, leveling and preparation of the road by pick and hand as the crew worked on repairs.

Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-4

It was a matter of time before my sister asked the logical question, “Thu, there are only women doing this road work… where are the men?”

With a start, Thu snapped out of his nap, looked outside the car window, and nonchalantly replied: “Oh, the men?  The men are in management…” and closed his eyes to go back to sleep.  I stifled my laughter.

Monks at Play Myanmar - Men In Management-5

I thought Thu’s response was perfect, even though over the past decades of tormenting my three sisters about the ‘wonders of being a man’ I should have known a storm was inevitably brewing.

Hiding my smile, I would have high-fived Mr. Thu if he wasn’t fading back to sleep and I didn’t have a beer in each hand…

Yangon Myanmar - Men In Management-6

“It sounds like the old boys network,” my sister said to Kay-K.  “Men in power, pretending to be significant while the rest of us do the real work that keeps us moving forward.”

“Of course, it is the same everywhere isn’t it?” cooed Kay-K, casting a wary eye my way.  “Dalo, were you part of the old men’s club with your work in the USA?”

“Well, yeah, I suppose I was…  I was part of a male upper-management team.” I quickly inhaled the last of my beer, a little worried at what I was getting myself into.  Mr. Thu just opened one eye looking back at me as if to say  “feign sleep, it’s your only way out…”

Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-7

Yet before I could put my head back and close my eyes, Kay-K was quick to ask, “And was working with this company good for you?”

“Uh, yeah, it was nice.  I was able to buy a nice house, save some money and take such nice trips as this…” I added, wondering where this was going, although knowing it was not going to end well and too late to do anything about it…

“And how about the company now; the common employees?” she looked at me inquisitively.

Yangon Myanmar - Men In Management-8

“Uh, well, I left the company last year but I do know that the employees there are struggling a bit as there have been huge cuts within the company, but they did announce record profits last year.” I smiled, and decided now was the time to close my eyes and try Thu’s trick of feigning sleep.

“Making cuts?  Record profits?” Kay-K questioned, and laughed with a sharp tone, “and let me guess, the old men in the executive positions are walking away with big bonuses…”

With eyes closed, I let out a couple snores, hoping to dissolve the conversation.

Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-9

Not sure how much time passed in our conversation, but the ‘pop’ of a fresh beer opening gave me away as my hand shot-out instinctively and Kay-K replaced the one I was holding with a fresh one.

Slowly squinting, I opened my eyes, checking to see if all was well and turned to look outside.  Could not have been worse timing, as immediately we passed a group of women working the fields, and I felt Kay-K’s stare burning the back of my head.

Women of Bagan Myanmar - Men In Management-10

Cracking a meager smile, I turned and said, “If I have learned correctly, the men are in management, elsewhere, correct?!?”  Thu lifted up his beer in a silent toast as sarcastic jeers came from Kay-K and sis.

Inle Lake Myanmar - Men In Management-11

Ahead of us was Old Bagan, with some of the most beautiful landscapes one will ever see and I anxiously prepped my gear for a nice evening of shooting.  As we started walking to one of the temples, Kay-K flashed a smile and said, “so, you take photographs and drink beer…that is very nice.  You’d be a very good Myanmar man…”  And with a laugh she ran and caught up with my sister.

Pindaya Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-12

The evening shoot was magical, the spirit of the people incredible…peaceful and playful.  Mixed within these incredible archeological sites, Thu and Kay-K talked a lot about the history and culture of the land as well as the men and women.

“There is a saying that my Dad taught me and I take it to heart.”  Thu said, “For men who think a woman’s place is in the kitchen, just remember that’s where the knives are kept.”

Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-13

“Myanmar not too long ago was a matriarchal society, and women held all the right to inherit wealth and were leaders of villages…” Kay-K smiled.  “Most men hate to admit to it, but it was a very prosperous period for our country.”

Kay-K Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-14

“And when women were forced into the background, guess what happened to our country…” Kay-K added, “power struggles, egos of men creating chaos.  We lost generations of fresh minds and new ideas…it is sad.  Why are men so moronic when it comes to fighting?”

Monk and Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-15

I rubbed the small scar on my chin, a result of a long ago fight that even during the brawl I don’t think anyone knew what we were fighting for.  Hmmm, probably not the best time to tell that story.

“We’ve always had a feel for progress and for freedom, and the men know it…perhaps their knowing it makes them so lazy.” Kay-K sighed.

Myanmar - Men In Management-16

“Men know that we will cleanup their mess, so when things get tough ~ men turn to us, but hate to admit they need us.” With that she grabbed my sister’s hand and both of them tromped off to the market to find some exotic foods for dinner.

Inle Lake Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-17

I look at Thu who shook his head and smiled.  “She is a little troublesome…but it is true.  Men can either fear and repress women, and watch the world fall apart.  Or men can proudly promote women and enjoy their greatness and prosperity.”

As he popped open a couple of beers, Thu settled down underneath the shade of a tree with a newspaper in hand and added, “Me, I’d rather enjoy their greatness.”

Old Bagan Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-18

From the front page of the paper Thu was reading, the word “Hope” stood out followed by a discussions of two future elections.  Elections that may just see a change in the theory of ‘Men in Management.’

Myanmar 2015 Presidential Election:  Aung San Suu Kyi
United States 2016 Presidential Election: Hillary Clinton
 

Hope for the Women of Myanmar - Men In Management-19

 

Old Bagan Myanmar - Men In Management-24

“Say Romeo, what about your promise to the He-Man-Woman-Haters-Club?”
“I’m sorry, Spanky.  I’ve got to live my own life.”  – REO Speedwagon, Hi Infidelity Album

Theodore Roosevelt and the Skokomish Wilderness

Skokomish Wilderness Olympic National Forest-1

On the Southeast corner of the Olympic National Forest in the State of Washington (USA), lies an area unmatched in its beauty and sense of freedom.  A fierce wilderness, just tame enough to charm a simple tenderfoot like myself, but sharp enough to ensure that it will never come under the control of any man.

Skokomish Wilderness Olympic National Forest-2 The Skokomish Wilderness emerges from the shores of Hood Canal as a key to unlock the spirit that hides within the hearts of everyone seeking the bliss nature has to offer:

  • Pure blue skies, crystal clear water and pine-scented air
  • Elk, bear, deer and all wildlife living without fear of man
  • The sounds of the night heard centuries ago

Skokomish Wilderness Olympic National Forest Roosevelt Elk -3

This relatively unknown land is not just an untamed wilderness but it holds a history that defines America and her natural lands.  Throughout the 1800s, the lands of the USA were being destroyed by corporate greed aptly described by John Muir:

“The great wilds of our country, once held to be boundless and inexhaustible, are being rapidly invaded and overrun…
and everything destructible in them is being destroyed.” 

Skokomish Wilderness Olympic National Forest-4 In the early 1900s, timber companies had their axes aimed on the last stands of virgin rainforest in the USA…the Skokomish and Olympic Wilderness.  The local Forest Service, serving as patsies to large timber companies, invited President Theodore Roosevelt out to the Pacific Northwest for a visit: a visit designed to secure his signature opening up the land for logging.

Skokomish Wilderness Olympic National Forest-5 However, the plans of the timber companies crashed as Roosevelt viewed the wilderness and then a clear-cut section of forest and told his guide “I hope the son-of-a-bitch who is responsible for this is roasting in hell” not knowing at the time that the very person responsible was standing next to him.

North Fork Skokomish River Olympic National Forest-6

Roosevelt had found in this area a place where any man, woman or child could not help but fall deep into the wilderness and a return to nature.  A place that even in the late 1890s had already begun to disappeared around most of America.  A place to find that lost sense of greatness and freedom; a spirit we spend too much of our lives searching for.

Skokomish Wilderness Olympic National Forest-7During Roosevelt’s stay, he visited Lake Cushman and the elegant Antlers Hotel, built for adventurers at the doorstep of a wilderness, and he fell in love with the land.  He is quoted as saying: “There may be some place in the world equal to Puget Sound, but I do not know where it is…” and the impression the land made can be clearly understood today.

Sunset on the Olympic National Forest Range -8 It was this visit to the Skokomish wilderness area that triggered Roosevelt to use the Antiquities Act to set aside the land as the Mt. Olympus National Monument (eventually with much of it becoming part of the Olympic National Forest).  Preserving a part of life and land where the greed and manipulation of lesser men would be unable to invade and take root.

Skokomish Wilderness Olympic National Forest-9

Is there not a better feeling than getting lost in the simple scenes of nature?

To listen to the incredible wisdom of a babbling brook, watching it grow in size to a gurgling creek and then stand proudly as it matures into an intense roaring river, unabashed with excitement during spring rains.

It is so simple.  It is so beautiful.

North Fork Skokomish River Olympic National Forest -10

There is nothing quite like a visit to the Skokomish Wilderness to invigorate the soul and lift off the chaotic gloom of winter.  To see a land, while changed, still holding onto its primal instincts.

I often dream of writing about this area; the transformation from a home to the Native Americans, to a target of the timber industry and then its intriguing flirtation as an upscale tourist destination for the very wealthy of the world.

Staircase Trail Olympic National Forest -11

This flirtation began as timber interests dwindled and young adventurers known as “Remittance Men” (receiving allowances from their wealthy families on the East Coast) highlighted a run of upscale investments, with the goal of creating a great wilderness playground for the wealthy elite.

Crisscrossing the globe to get to Seattle, a berth on a steam ferry to Union City, a stagecoach to reach Hoodsport, and from there a horseback ride to bring them to the doorstep of the upscale, yet isolated, Antlers Hotel.

Skokomish Wilderness Olympic National Forest-12

For those able to afford such a trip, they would be rewarded with a slice of heaven.  Guests stayed on average for at least a month: to taste a life that had only been heard in stories, unsure whether the stories were actually true or merely tales of fantasy…

Mt. Rose Trail Olympic National Forest -13

As fate would have it, the allure of this fantasy faded quickly as war and unfortunate timing stopped the flow of investment, and just like that, the Skokomish Wilderness faded from the minds of wealthy adventurers.

This amazing time period between 1880 and 1930 fascinates me.  On several occasions, I have dreamt about staying at the Antlers Hotel.

Skokomish Wilderness Olympic National Forest-14

The year is 1903, and my vivid imagination and memory has me waking up prior to dawn, with black coffee in hand I walk down to the shores of the lake.

I look up, and just make out the silhouette of Mt. Ellinor peering down on the lake and hotel, her peaks inviting me up for a climb and adventure.  I can feel a smile forming on my face as I exhale at the beauty of all that is around me.  Then this peaceful solitude is shattered…

Skokomish Wilderness Olympic National Forest-15

A gruff voice with a twinge of admiration and respect breaks through my thoughts, and I hear the words as clearly today as I did a 100 years ago:  “You have not truly lived, if you dare not go where dreams are created…”

And as I turn, President Roosevelt’s eyes flash a smile of a promise to protect these lands, and without another sound he continues his hike along the banks of the lake, fishing rod in hand…

Roosevelt Elk North Fork Skokomish River Olympic National Forest -16

I watch, and as if to show a sign of great respect, a Roosevelt elk walks along side him.  An elk who bears his name in tribute and recognition of his efforts in protecting his kind and this land so many years ago.

Dreams.

We all need a place to find freedom for our spirit; to appreciate the beauty around us so we can take the responsibility and dare to dream for a tomorrow better than today.

For a few, such a place is the Skokomish Wilderness.

Skokomish Wilderness Olympic National Forest-17

Skokomish Wilderness Olympic National Forest-18

The Art of Devotion

Myanmar Devotion-1 Devotion inspires one of the purest sets of emotions, capturing love, loyalty and deep feelings of excitement that I do not think can ever be understood beyond our own personal experiences. In the world around us, so much devotion towards deities, lovers, children and nature, all linked to our desire to better understand. Myanmar Devotion-2 Devotion in its pure form is absolutely awe inspiring to witness. I may not share or understand the experience of the devotee, but often cannot help but feel some attachment with their act of devotion. Myanmar Devotion-3 To many, devotion is a scary word.  Devotion requires commitment, and the fear of commitment alone can send people running for the door. Contrarily, the only emotion equal to the feeling of devotion is the feeling of freedom.    Freedom to live, to pursue and to reach the potential hidden within, for this is what life’s about. This is the strange paradox between devotion and freedom. Myanmar Devotion-4 The integrity of people devoted to philanthropy has been inspirational since the dawn of time.  The world admires such people for the dignity and strength of their devotion. However, in today’s world with an overwhelming number of options with little time to spare, I wonder if such pure devotion is possible without restricting freedom? Myanmar Devotion-5 On the surface, devotion appears restrictive due to intense focus and drive, especially in what is now a sound-bite/tech based society where nanoseconds steal away cognate thought.  Is it possible to have true devotion and not have every fiber of your being focused on this nirvana?

“If this conviction had not been a strongly emotional one…they would hardly have been capable of that untiring
devotion which alone enables man to attain his greatest achievements.” ~ Albert Einstein

Myanmar Devotion-6 Perhaps the greatest window into the art of devotion comes from religions around the world, stunning in their emotional beauty.  We see people opening their hearts and soul, trusting in devotion. The beautiful fury of devotion. With the lesson that such beauty is tempered when priestly powers from above, and I mean those men who sit in rooms and pontificate, creating rules based on outdated policies with one goal: to control. Myanmar Devotion-7 It does not take an academic to recognize centuries of petty political ideologies sprung from ivory towers, exposing the self-righteous nature of man.  To control and manipulate devotion for purposes other than its pure source and nature is to extinguish the flame that made it so.

“Whatever I am offered in devotion with a pure heart –
a leaf, a flower, fruit or water – I accept with joy.” ~ Bhagavad Gita

Myanmar Devotion-8 There is a simple, beautiful thread that is the backbone of devotion and it is the mysterious concept of love.  Once rules, regulations and intolerance are allowed into this mystic sanctuary, devotion becomes less than what its true destiny requires. It becomes a misguided passion that takes us away from the immense potential. Myanmar Devotion-9 Ceasing to ask questions and instead listen to rules created by others taints the purity of devotion. It is pure devotion that makes it easier to find this oft spoken iron rod to lead us forward in life.  Faith does not mean to stop seeking answers or submit to blind faith, but rather to take responsibility. Myanmar Devotion-10 Questioning faith along the way is an integral part of human nature.  It helps redefine who we are and what we can become.  It allows for our devotion to evolve over time, granting flexibility and freedom in life to make the right decisions. Pure devotion is a journey to open up new ideas and see through destructive intolerances.  Like all good things, the greatest potential can only be reach when given the freedom to pursue. Myanmar Devotion-11 Watching someone from the opposite side of the world practice the religion of their culture, I see how beautiful Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism are because they all share the same threads of belief.  It creates a sense of devotion within. All things are born from devotion: the rhythm of science, spirit of musicians, harmonies of mathematics and the devotion of a mother to her child.  The foundation of devotion is the seed for growth. Myanmar Devotion-12 Belief in a power we do not understand, yet surrender ourselves completely takes courage.  Behind this courage is love, the common thread that unites everything and everyone in the world.  You cannot love without the pureness of devotion leading the way. Take away all of the politics, the insensitive rhetoric of intolerance and there lies the beauty of real devotion. Myanmar Devotion-14

“When the sun of fierce devotion shines on the snow mountain…
the stream of his blessing will pour down.” ~ Drikung Kyobpa

In a world where we are always chasing something, lost in the false devotions shoveled to us daily by “society”, it is easy to miss what is at the heart of devotion and love.  Forgiveness. Myanmar Devotion-13 Forgiveness is a sacrifice, to grasp the simple significance of quality: quality of this short time on Earth and the quality of tomorrow.  Forgiveness can bring the freedom to move on with a clear heart, and through it strengthen devotion. It seems strange to think of forgiving others as a sacrifice, but I’ve seen pride and perceived slights crush love and devotion, every passing second creating a scar that could have been prevented with an act of forgiveness. Myanmar Devotion-17 The coming Easter holiday is perhaps the epitome of sacrifice.  Within this holiday are the select attributes that make devotion such a powerful state to experience. Forgiveness and sacrifice.  Two concepts I never before considered to be at the core of true devotion towards the things that I love. To be devoted to life, heart open and tolerant of all that is different guarantees a journey through life like no other; it will take the spirit places never before imagined. Myanmar Devotion-15

“The need for devotion to something outside ourselves is even more profound than the need for companionship.  If we are not to go to pieces or wither away, we must have some purpose in life; for no man can live for himself alone.” ~ Ross Parmenter

Myanmar Devotion-23 Myanmar Devotion-20

%d bloggers like this: