Sunday, November 18, 2007

Adventure and Photography

Every once in a while I feel a tremendous emotional response to an artist, and often I find that artist is a photographer. Perhaps it's because photography takes images from the real world and can transform them into so much more. Art. Poetry. Mystery. Humanity.

I am presently full of breathless admiration at the work of Phil Borges.

Through his travels--to Africa, India, Mongolia, Irian Jaya, Afghanistan, South America--he has created striking hand-toned photographs of people from far-flung places. His images are often of the very old and the very young.

I was lucky enough to meet Phil Borges at a conference at the University of Victoria this Friday.

I'd been listening to some pretty interesting speakers all day on a variety of topics that loosely fell under the subject of perspectives on childcare from multicultural viewpoints: there was a talk on child labour issues in India, a lecture on the experiences of migrant children crossing the border north into the States as seen through their art-work; a talk from schoolteacher trying to reintroduce the Maori language into the New Zealand school system. There was a preschool activist from Hong Kong, a professor from a university in Cameroon, and a representative from the Potawatomi Nation talking about childhood intervention in Native American communities. It was a very full day.

But I think I would have travelled to Victoria just to hear Phil Borges speak for forty-five minutes.

One of the things he talked about was the disappearance of culture, and how preserving diversity was hugely important. The main goal of his photography, he says, is to help preserve the world's diversity through images and story-telling.

Did you know of the 6000 languages spoken on earth today, 3000 of them are not spoken by the children? "Every two weeks another elder goes to the grave taking with them the last spoken word of an entire culture."

Every time a language dies, said Borges, "It's like burning down a little library."

The thought of it hits me in the gut somehow.

As he showed us his pictures, Borges told us fascinating tales from places like Tibet and Nepal---about photographing the Dalai Lama, about meeting nuns just released from years of prison for the crime of displaying a poster asking to free their country, of Buddhist oracles in ninety-pound hats.

He took us deep into the land of Irian Jaya where one of his picture illustrates the results of the custom where each time a loved one dies, the women cut one of their own fingers off.

In another picture, a little girl waits outside the hut where her grandmother lies on her deathbed and he described the goodbye rituals and the special connections between the very old and the very young --for one is just about to return to the spirit world and the other has just left it.

Some of his photos tell stories of heroic women--of a woman teaching girls in a forbidden school under the Taliban, of an Ethiopian girl who bravely defied tradition and single-handedly ended the practice of female circumcision in her tribe.

Some of his photographs, like that of the regal African woman at the top of this post are of shamans. Another of his adventures took him into the jungles of South America where he witness the "shape-shifting" of one of the shamans there, as he took on the essence of the jaguar.

Oh, this person had some interesting travels!

He is also involved in getting children all over the world involved in "telling their own stories" through photography, and then using the photographs they've taken to make little films.

For instance, the children of one Guatemalen village wanted to stop the pollution of the river in their town (people would throw all kinds of things into this, their drinking supply, without regard). After documenting this, the children took their film to their mayor and filmed him saying he would take action. And he did. The river was cleaned up.

In a beautiful little film (that we saw during the talk), a Tibetan girl decides that it is not fair that only boys can have their own football team and she decides to change things...

(Apaprently you can view some of these child-made films online somewhere and I'm going to go and look for the link. )

Anyway, photographer Phil Borges has several books out, two of which I'd love to own. There were samples at the conference, but none actually for sale. Too bad, because I know he could have sold a lot. One is called Enduring Spirit and the other is Women Empowered .

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Why I'm Not Going to Hug Any Trees Just Now

So, there are definitely better ways to start the morning than this .

I was standing at the living room window listening to the weather report (while staying tuned to try and win a radio contest that would take me --please please-- away from all this torrential rain to sunny Mexico). The weatherman was telling me it was pretty nasty out there (not exactly new information) and to please do watch out for downed power-lines and falling trees....

when suddenly there was an enormous CRACKING sound as my neighbour's tree decided to uproot itself and CRUNCH my friend Tai's car!

Following the CRACK and the CRUNCH , there the was sound of Spider Girl's high-pitched disbelieving voice wailing my friend's name as I charged upstairs to wake her.

This is so not how I usually like to treat my house-guests.

Tai has posted on this subject over on her blog and I thought she was remarkably calm considering the situation. "Never a dull moment", I believe was her wry comment as she surveyed the damage.

Things I Have Learned From This #1: Never tempt the gods.
Why, just the night before, Tai and I discussed the time a small branch fell on my car once while I was driving during a winter storm and how that totally unnerved me. She said, I don't believe I've ever had a single branch ever fall on my car...."
Tai pointed out this morning that actually still holds true as it was obviously not a branch that fell on her car.
Things I Have Learned #2: Large trees have disturbingly shallow and small root systems.
Look at the roots on this enormous tree! I've seen more impressive roots on dandelions and creeping buttercup in my flower borders!
And there are several more trees like this in my neighbour's yard. Don't get me wrong---I like trees. But I'm eyeing them rather more suspiciously today.
The one that fell was so long it fell (not only onto Tai's car) but completely across the street and bounced onto the roof of my neighbour's little red car before the power wires pulled it up a little ways again.
Things I Have Learned #3: I need to try to look more polished when I roll out of bed in the morning.
You know, in case I'm required to give an interview or two before breakfast.
Obviously, you never know how a morning's going to go.
First this cameraman shows up.....

And then another TV station showed up. Oh, and I think I saw Tai hob-knobbing with a newspaper reporter as well.
Tai's little car was certainly the hot topic on the block.
And we made it onto two TV stations tonight. Of course, I actually didn't have any power to watch them at my house (our wires got nicely ripped out of the side of our house), but I did borrow my mother-in-law's electricity and so was able to catch our remarkably cheerful faces on the news at six.

Next time I'm hoping our fifteen seconds of fame is because we've won the lottery.

Poor Tai! See what happens when you come and see your friend!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

The Spa

I've been saving up this experience for a while--45 minutes of blissful head and shoulders massage at the Kingfisher Spa......

It's been nice to look over at the mantle and see those envelopes with the gift certificates waiting inside for me, but I'm ready for some pampering.

About a month ago I used the one for the Pacific Mist Hydropath experience--that's an hour I spent pretending to be a mermaid princess in tonic mineral pools, massaged by waterfalls, comatose in an aromatic sandstone steam cave, and soaking in mystically-beneficial glacial lake mud. Aaaaahhhhh.....

Then warm, blissed out, and wrapped in a cozy robe I spent a while watching the full moon rise over the ocean in the relaxation room while nature sounds burbled in the background.

Life is good, my friends. I am looking forward to this evening.... I shall report back to you later if I'm not too relaxed to type..

Friday, November 02, 2007


1. Name one person who made you laugh last night?
Tai (otherwise known as Myscheef, second from right in this picture.). She was jumping up and down on Andanar's head in Stormwind Keep, laughing manaically and pretending to perform CPR. Another player commented that this was truly a Kodak moment. I think you had to be in the video game we were playing. Trust me.

2. What were you doing at 0800?
Squeezing in some reading before I started work.
I'm reading a book called Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I'm enjoying it immensely. It's about a woman who takes a year off to find herself and spends it in Italy (seeking pleasure), in India (seeking spirituality), and in Indonesia (trying to put both those things together).
3. What were you doing 30 minutes ago?
Drinking tea and downloading photos.
4. What happened to you in 2006?
I had to think about this for a few minutes because 2006 was not a year where I could say "Oh, that's the year I went on safari in Africa" (2005) or "That's the year I went to Italy (this year), etc.
The year 2006 was sadly travel-free. However, I did still manage to be a tourist in my own neck of the woods.
I went to the amazing Bodyworlds exhibit, visited the Bug Zoo , went on garden tours, sang along at a Spirit of the West concert, imbibed Shakespeare at Bard on the Beach , saw the musicals Cats and Urinetown and the ballet Amadeus, and saw a Chinese dragon parade.

On a more personal level I attended a peace rally, danced in a bellydance show, bought a new car, painted my kitchen, went to a Full Moon pajama party (or two), saw my brother get married, and moonlighted for a while as the cleaner at a dentist office after hours in addition to my full-time preschool teaching job and my part-time gardening/flea-market gigs.

Yep, 2006 was a busy one.

5. What was the last thing you said out loud?

"Bah! Murlocs!" (Er, I'm sure there's no explanation needed...)

6. How many beverages did you have today?
Two coffees and some tea.
It really depends how many more cups of tea I throw back before I go to sleep.

7. What color is your hairbrush?


8. What was the last thing you paid for?
Big beautiful butterfly earrings for my pen-pal Ritika. Jeff's mom is leaving for India/Nepal this weekend and I thought I'd send along a little gift with her because I know she'll be visiting her while she's in Kathmandu.

9.Where were you last night? Home playing video games.

10. What color is your front door? Brown like the wood it is, with a pewter door-knocker in the shape of a cat's head.

11. Where do you keep your change?
In my future.

12. What’s the weather like today?
Frosty, chilly, hung with clouds--the kind of weather that finds you contemplating the purchase of woolly eighties-style leg-warmers.

13. What’s the best ice-cream flavor?
Chocolate-chip mint. Unless you're talking gelato and then it would be a toss-up between limone and frutta di bosca.

14. What excites you?

Buying a ticket to somewhere far from home and knowing that soon I will be there. It's an addictive feeling, this travel-bug.

15. Do you want to cut your hair?
Depends on how it's behaving. I was just admiring my pony-tail a few days ago and today I'm pulling at the tangles in impatience and fiercely contemplating going back to the days of the chin-length bob.

16. Are you over the age of 25? Happily, yes.

17. Do you talk a lot?

Does a duck like water? Does the Pope wear a tall hat?

18. Do you watch the O.C.?
Instead of confessing my ignorance on what exactly this might be, I'm going to say warily....noooooo.
19. Do you know anyone named Steven?
He looks a little bit like Harry Potter, has whirlwind energy, and keeps my friend Pol constantly busy.
20. Do you make up your own words? "Hista kea!" (Well, at least one or two people reading this blog might remember that....)
It's not words I make up so much as that I have creative spoken grammar.
21. Are you a jealous person?
Not unless you've stolen my cookie. Then I might be.

22. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘A’.
Ara! (Who I might actually get to see this weekend!)
23. Name a friend whose name starts with the letter ‘K’. Kim! (who tagged me with this meme)
24. Who’s the first person on your received call list? Er......what?
25. What does the last text message you received say? I'll let you know if I ever receive one. Doesn't seem likely though.
Do you chew your straw?
Absolutely not! Bleah! Plastic is so bad for you!
27. Do you have curly hair? My hair is as flat as Saskatchewan.
28.Where’s the next place you’re going to go?
If all the stars and signs fall into place, Jeff and I will be going to India and Nepal next winter, probably in November as we're really keen to avoid anything resembling monsoon season.
29. Who’s the rudest person in your life? Fortunately I had to think very hard about this before venturing, "Telemarketers?"
30. What was the last thing you ate?
Mexican food at the new restaurant in town. I fell in love with their pottery serving dishes.
31. Will you get married in the future?
I am so so married already, my dears. :)
32. What’s the best movie you’ve seen in the past 2 weeks?
Y'know, I haven't actually watched any movies lately. Not one. Unless you count YouTube clips.
33. Is there anyone you like right now? I love you all. Well, mostly. :)
34. When was the last time you did the dishes? This afternoon. I came home from work vowing to get three annoying tasks out of the way and that was one of them.
35. Are you currently depressed? Nope. Feeling quite mellow and at peace with the universe actually.
Much better than oh, say, yesterday afternoon. I'm generally on a pretty even keel emotionally. But now and then small storms sail through (on this occasion at work) and fortunately I'm able to stand up and say what needs to be said in a calm, cool manner (outwardly).
36. Did you cry today?Nope, all yesterday's issues have been ironed out so no need to let out all my righteous indignation.
37. Why did you answer and post this? Because Kim tagged me. (And I was avoiding my real homework!)