On this rather arduous return journey, I’m taking the opportunity to reflect on the many experiences of the past three adventurous months.
Visiting 13 cities in seven countries, I’m in awe about how global is our “village”. How did I observe this reality? A few examples:
Family matters everywhere! The customs and rituals may differ, but, children provide purpose for those fortunate to have them and sometimes become the chance for parents to realize their hopes and possibilities. In one Chinese family I visited, one little boy has two educated parents and four grandparents who are each committed to making his life better than theirs has been. It’s too early to tell what the impact will be of the new policy of more-than-one-child-per-family.
Education is considered the ticket to a better life even if it means sacrifices in the pursuit. With that specific purpose in mind, Oprah plus others such as Bill and Melinda Gates need to be applauded for their commitments to education in places where it’s not readily available but will surely provide benefit!
In most cultures, travel is considered to be a form of intellectual pursuit. Ironically, it does not seem to be regarded in the same way for many Americans.
Some form of “religion” or spiritual pursuit is observed whether practiced formally or informally. In Asian countries, the almost inbred rituals of especially Buddhists and Hindus, that even includes ancestor worship defies even governmental discouragement. I’ve become especially interested in how indistinguishable religion and culture are in those countries. As you, reader may have observed, going to Mass in different places with different languages represented “home away from home”.
Additionally, the need to “feed the soul” whether in a religious or spiritual mode leads to the creation of beautiful gardens, lovely poetry, excellent culinary expressions, etc., that ever serve both the giver and the receiver.
“Breaking bread” together, whatever is on the table and however it is accessed (fork, chopsticks, fingers, etc.) provides the opportunity for sharing and caring with people we value. I love this reality!
Clothing styles are becoming more relaxed and more similar. Even the long, rather straight hair look for women is “everywhere”. Additionally, it was interesting to note how many men on television don’t wear ties and how the dress for women on television is less and less “professional” (even in the states). Now, my preferences are showing.
The use (to overuse!) of words and phrases such as “no worries” and “amazing” are just that, “amazing”!
The following photos provide chronology with a periodic touch of serendipity:
Magnificent Maui—I never became tired of the view from condo.
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Notice the clever title of this restaurant.
Tactful Tokyo—Order and efficiency provide the stability for the impressive possibilities that are becoming realities.
Kultural Kyoto—Progress has strong ties to the treasured cultural places and traditions.
Bustling Beijing—Unique buildings use feng shui to honor their own tradition as they construct buildings to compete in the financial arena.
Honorable Hong Kong—In addition to their rich history and notable progress, the non-stop designer stores, the most massive Apple store in the world and non-stop activity, Asians love to hang out their wash
and also honor their spiritual traditions.
Jostling Jakarta—The capital of Indonesia is intensely passionate in its combination of traditional and modern. The spires of the cathedral demonstrate their love of their history as well as their commitment to the future. (Their recent outrage with Tony Abbott of Australia was interesting to follow locally.)
By contrast, the elegant, oasis-like setting of the Dharmawangza Hotel has become my new mental “happy place”.
Balmy Bali—The Hindu religion, as I mentioned in an earlier post, absolutely defines the culture (except for the areas of the beaches and night clubs where tourists rule). This distribution of daily, fresh offerings is not so evident, but even little inconspicuous shrines are kept in flowers and fruit.. As noted earlier, I was impressed to see little floral offerings just sporadically placed around the resort hotel where I stayed. To me it was absolutely dear to observe the wordless sincerity that this practice demonstrates.
Sizzling Singapore—A modern city that combines British order with visionary planning, it distinguishes itself from other cities in SEAsia with its wide boulevards, accent on cleanliness, elegance, shopping and fun. Note the bathtub at a bar in the distinguished Raffles Hotel complex:
Although the Orient Express is a “moving” experience, time seems to stop as the experience of charm and sophistication invite one into its time and routine.
Boundless Bangkok—Imperial Palace and other expressions of royal grandeur are now matched with contemporary edifices of elegance such as the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.
One of the restaurants for the hotel is literally across the river, so, the hotel provides this floating bridge to access the restaurant. Such a clever use of space!
Even Ronald MacDonald reflects the gentleness of the Thai people in his respectful pose.
Deliberately Darwin—As referenced in an earlier post, the city with pluck was a great way to be introduced to Australia and its strong individuality and resilience.
Bountiful Brisbane—Melbourne Cup day is when “the race that stops a nation” takes place. I was in Brisbane where it is celebrated as though it were in the neighborhood. Note the fascinators to accent the celebratory nature of the day.
Singularly Sydney—No harbour is more impressive than Sydney Harbour (officially Fort Jackson). Interestingly, the places people live are described in terms of their view(s) of the bridge and the opera house.
Another singular achievement is the first Australian saint, St. Mary MacKillop. Known for her specific and significant works, she also founded an order of nuns who continues her good work. Many visit her tomb and attend Mass at her shrine. I personally saw a woman in tears (hopefully of gratitude) at her tomb.
Clever promo from an insurance company
Memorable Melbourne– The first week of the Wagner Ring Festival distinguished my very busy and completely wonderful visit.
Additional visits with friends-of-friends, shopping in beautiful arcades and the spring-like weather were wonderful.
The completed adventure is one of the ways I’m grateful this Thanksgiving. Another way that I’m sincerely grateful is for the 32 generous and gracious friends-of-friends I loved getting to know and who allowed me to see their home-towns “through their eyes”.
Of course, I’m grateful to come back “home”, even if I’m currently and deliberately “home-free” for several more months. I’m grateful to have the freedom to make such a choice!
I hope that this is a particularly happy Thanksgiving for you and your family and that 2014 will be momentous!
P. S. Although I did not see many Buddhist monks while in Asia, I see three of them in United Club Lounge in Houston–eating raw carrots. God really has a sense of humor!!!