Monday, November 5, 2018

Third World Passivity

Nepal is a Himalayan nation with a rich spiritual heritage. Lumbini is the birthplace of the Buddha, and glorious temples with real gold roofs adorn the landscape. Nonetheless, people live in abject poverty and the consensus among my acquaintances is that corruption is the name of the game.

One new friend remarked that she used to believe in foreign aid but no more because the money does not get to the people. Government officials get richer and let the people suffer. Of course, this is not unique to Nepal. On virtually every continent greed trumps human kindness when power brokers have their way.

Yet, there is something unique to the Western world, despite its prodigious flaws. People seem less resigned to fate and more proactive in demanding a better quality of life.

This was strikingly apparent yesterday at a large "puja" (a ceremony of a spiritual/religious nature). I and 3,000 Nepalese Buddhists, along with a sprinkling of westerners, were streaming out of the grounds where the event had taken place. We had to pass through a badly paved lane sandwiched between buildings to reach the main road. A shopkeeper on this small causeway suddenly turned on his hose and decided to wash the patch of concrete in front of his store, an area that was choked with human beings.

Luckily I was not at the head of the herd, but just far back enough to see what was going on in front of me. Small children and their parents were getting splattered with water as the filth of the street rose in tandem with the spray. The Nepalis said nothing and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small Nepali boy spinning in confusion at the watery assault.

Then, out of this chaos came the voice of a blonde American woman who was also being doused. She shouted, "Stop! You are getting us all dirty! Note the pronoun US. Not ME. The man with the house was mildly daunted and shifted the direction of his hose to the side of the street.

Later on, an insight dawned on me. The Nepali folks just bore the insult and said nothing. The woman with the mane of blond hair took action, demanding that the watery injustice stop. This was not a case of "the ugly American" but rather someone who stood up to a wrong in an attempt to correct it.

When people remain silent, when they are afraid to protest, they get run over. How fitting that this observation happens on the eve of the critical midterm elections in the US. May my fellow countrymen of conscience rise up to right the wrongs being inflicted on our country.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

The Rubberband Connection

How many rubber bands are in circulation around the globe?

A common item found worldwide, the lowly rubberband is an overlooked, underestimated luxury item. Like all things, its origins come from Mother Earth. Whether born of a rubber tree or the synthetic type formed from crude oil, the ingredients must be mined, manufactured into rubber bands of all sizes and thicknesses, and distributed to the marketplace, whether it be a Walmart or a roadside vendor with a pushcart.

Their uses are multitudinous, among them being an item that holds the hair pulled back and firmly in place. Herein lies the nexus of my pondering mind.

A Californian with a thriving inner-hippy persona, my locks are always wild and free no matter what the occasion. However, upon arriving in Nepal for a task that requires outdoor activity, I found that the dirty, dusty and humid environment made my hair frizz into a halo resembling an elderly lion's mane. Then, prodigious sweat pouring from my pores dampened the hair into a matted mess. By the end of the first day here, my appearance was suggestive of a crazed woman who had been cast out.

Not choosing to be a case of mistaken identity, I combed my luggage for a rubber band to tame my hair into a bun, the kind of look that is the style of "mature" women in Nepal. Only one was to be found, binding together a packet of Wet Ones, truly a First World item for travelers.

The common rubber band, so often discarded without a thought, became a prized item. It was only then, with scarcity as the stimulus, did it dawn on me that these innocent little items, so taken for granted, are in fact a treasure to be treated with care, out of respect for Mother Earth and the human sweat and toil that brought them into being.

Third World Passivity

Nepal is a Himalayan nation with a rich spiritual heritage. Lumbini is the birthplace of the Buddha, and glorious temples with real gold ro...