Our Royal Progress: pre-and-post Christmas in an Eastern setting

–Lampang – Chiang Mai (Thailand)

 Two days before Christmas, Supon’s bamboo papermaking showroom and workshop are the launching pad for Elizabeth: a year’s worth of art. Roy and I looked on as Soupon packed her order and discussed  mulberry-bamboo percentages, fiber-length…  

Despite posted restrictions, we had a fine Christmas Eve, Riverside. 
Christmas Morning, we tried for the Lampang-Chiang Mai bus.   

ended up in a taxi (no complaints).

Then Roy took charge of the Christmas meal, which was  a Progressive Dinner .  Yes, you read that right ( parked riverside). 

Even if you’re  not a Foodie, I think these plates – I didn’t bother to snap E’s salmon or my curry – give a sense of the next place he chose.   


We ended our Christmas at Anantara. The former British Consulate (it  was Roy’s evening, after all), now a sprawling luxury hotel, is a hoot: rich teak everywhere, and deep green walls in the bar — Japanese minimalist in other parts — and  attentive, early-20th c. -uniformed  wait staff. Poor photos because I was trying to be subtle.


  I gave up all pretense of subtlety for this video —  

and to all, a goodnight!

And now it’s Boxing Day, with my Chiang Mai neighborhood (“mine” for another week) and its uber-tattooed western 65-year-old men on their Vespas. My guesthouse is across from one temple and w/in a couple blocks of others, lovely and cool spaces…and look who showed up in a Sri Lankan RC church!!



Rock Star Tiffany

In Trivandrum, I had the honor of 94% humidity, yes, and a very budget guesthouse, true. However, I also had the honest-to-God huge and absolutely  unadulterated honor of meeting and working for too short a time with the indomitable, young (28!) founder of Jyothirgamaya, a nonprofit which empowers low-vision and blind people…Vision Loss Resources, Indian style!

 Tiffany is a machine — amazing to see her on the phone working on fundraising one minute, teaching a mobility or Voiceover lesson, the next.

 Tiffany moves fast and deftly, in the classroom and in the street (SO fast, I’ve no “outdoor” photos of her!).
Vinitha prepares incredible Kerala food every day at the hostel near the Center – and huge hugs for Tiffany.  

While I was there, one of the young women at the Jyothirgamaya Center got a job, packed up her belongings in the hostel, and headed out —   


“Yes-yes, come-come”


That was the Sister of Charity when I called to see if I could go out again to volunteer for awhile the orphanage. If you ask me some day, I’ll tell you about the nuns, children, and  workers I met at Jeevan Jyoti, but no photos of any of them (impossible, really, at so many levels)

GETTING THERE: The hotel doorman hailed a tuk-tuk this time, and after clattering around and through colonial Connaught Place for 10 minutes, my driver pulled over, hopped out, and brought in a man who looked old enough to be his father, saying,  “My cousin Ma’m. Same price.” I never saw that driver again. 

Anyhow, I did  what I  often do here:  morphed into Queen Victoria, who in another context is [probably inaccurately] credited with saying, I closed eyes and thought of England.  


Driver #2 asking directions

This  fruit and vegetable seller was our 2nd stop for directions; the 3rd was a car labeled “Tourist Police,” and the 4th occurred after I noticed that the sign reading “Mother Teresa’s” (where we’d turned RIGHT ) had had an arrow pointing LEFT. 


Once back in Connaught Place, and anxious to put off packing, I walked again through some of CP, eventually stopping for dinner at United Coffee House (great chandeliers).


“This Is What 70 Looks Like,” REDUX

Senthil Kumar, the school’s director, talked to me back in February about his great hope that he could take the teachers by train and by plane to Chennai (Madras).  Honestly? I never thought he could pull it off, but donations from the fundraiser, “This is What 70 Looks Like,” allowed it to happen — 
Here is  Senthil’s description of the day, including the first-ever flight which contributions from “This is What 70 Looks Like”  provided for the teachers on India’s Independence Day this summer.
Two firsts: airplane, metro

 Another First: Chennai’s Metro

Yes, now I am here to tell you all the joy we had with our Chennai visit! This Independence day was a very special and memorable one for all of us, especially the teachers of the School and certainly you did make this possible. They are so grateful to you for this love and are waiting in wings to tell you their joyful experience in person.
Our original program was well-planned with the mid-day plane trip to Chennai and returning back by the night train. But on the day of the program an SMS woke me up, telling me the flight would be delayed for nearly 10 hours!!! I was worried and disappointed and immediately cancelled all the return train tickets so that at least we could get back some coins. And instead booked  bus tickets for the next evening, not pleasant but we  had no alternative.
I had  wanted to have the plane ride during day time but this did not materialize and I was sorry for this,  as the teachers could have seen the sky and the clouds and have gotten the  additional feel and joy of flying. And another hiccup was that both at Trichy and Chennai airports now they use the aero-steps to board the plane which leads one straight into the plane,  not leaving the passenger to have a glimpse of the carrier you are travelling in. This saddened the teachers a bit as they wanted to see the plane they were travelling in.
Apart from this,  everything was joyful! After the traditional flag-hoisting for India’s  Independence Day at the School in the morning, we ate  lunch at home, then started in the evening to Trichy by the School van and were in time for the flight. The teachers enjoyed the security checks as they saw with their own eyes how far the authorities take care to ensure the safety of the plane and the passengers. And in the spacious aircraft there were not many travelling – it was half empty. After the whiz-off we were in Chennai barely within an hour’s time,  reaching there at midnight.
We spent the night in the airport verandha and in the early morning the booked vehicles arrived at the airport to pick us up. We went to Koimbedu, the bus terminal,  and refreshed ourselves and had breakfast. Then it was the joyful trip on the Metro train which has been recently introduced in Chennai.. Boarding at Koimbedu we got down at Alandur, the tail end station and from here went to Vadapalani Lord Muruga Temple and then to Ashta Lakshmi temple at Besant Nagar on the beach.
Later we wade through the town passing through Santhome Church and various places of interest and reached the beach housing the samadhis of two former great Chief Ministers Anna and MGR.
Samadhis (funerary monuments) near the beach, Chennai
After spending some time here and playing in the sea a little, though it was terribly hot, we went to T.Nagar area for our lunch and then for the teachers to do some shopping.
SHOPPING Area, Chennai

SHOPPING , T. Nagar in Chennai

Then it was getting late for the bus, so we had to rush and caught the bus at the last minute by 1930 hrs and reached Kulithalai in the early morning,  around 0430 hrs. Our School van was waiting here at the school to pick up the teachers and drop them back at home safely. We thanked the loving Lord for protecting us all the way through in a special way.
Every one was so delighted, dear Mary Ellen, and this joy belongs to you and all those who contributed on your Birthday. Words are not enough to thank you and so we send our hearts to thank you and all your loved ones for this love and help.

July, 2015: Some Northern CA


Baggage Claim, Sacramento

                                  Baggage Claim, Sacramento

Some set-mates, not all, in San Rafael for the 50th Jubilee of Pat O.

With some of our Dominican set-mates, not all, who met in San Rafael for the 50th Jubilee. Among those present but missing from this photo are Cathy, Pat – our Jubilarian –  and Sr. Jeremy, our novice mistress from [gulp]1963.

BEFORE: Morning picks, Brooks & Trish's  Chico garden.

BEFORE: Morning picks, Brooks & Trish’s Chico garden.

AFTER:  Add prosciutto, goat cheese, Pinot Grigiot...

AFTER: Add prosciutto, goat cheese, Pinot Grigiot…

NEW CLAIRVAUX WINERY, and  its under-construction abbey church. 

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TRAVEL Back in the Day

                 ([the beginning of] an attempt to toss all those forgotten travel photos onto one site)


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Greece 2008

Provence 2010

More 2010: Provence (w/o captions) + Vienna, PTown, Siena, Pondicherry, Agra —

Why Are You [still] Catholic?

To be sure, it’s a question I’ve often been asked, especially  lately, by friends – nonbelievers, former Catholics, protestants. I know some who resolve the question by being able to claim a Cultural Catholicism: it’s in their DNA, it’s the way they grew up,  so even though they can’t attend Mass or receive the sacraments, they still find that they can’t simply shake it (RC-ism) off. They can’t not be Catholic.

However, as some of my children (you know who you are) used to say about my attempts to serve things like  plain yogurt popsicles or cooked-to-dryness pork chops, That doesn’t work for me.

Recently, two pieces of news: charges brought by my hero, the Ramsey County attorney general, against my  archdiocese. At last!  And now,  the pope has approved  the creation of a Vatican tribunal “for judging bishops accused of covering up or failing to act” in cases of clerical abuse. Every news article singles out the archbishop who lives up the street here, so naturally I’ve joined  the multitude crowing and posting giddy status updates  on Facebook. Still, that doesn’t work for me, so I’m looking beyond the news – beyond Facebook, even.

With the warmer weather, I’ve been taking a morning or afternoon walk,  and as usual end up on the south side of my neighborhood church. I’ve been taking grandkids here for a couple years, and so we have a routine — more about that in minute.


This view, this photo, brought  me back to  Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation, specifically to his chapter on the Renaissance, in which he writes of the decadence and the wonder of the Renaissance. True, Clark’s text is dated (he talks of Man, and he writes of only male Renaissance artists). Yet, he gets many things right, especially the part about beauty rising out of decadence. That almost works for me.

Last week, my oldest and dearest friend told me she’d wondered this same question aloud – why stay Catholic – to her spiritual director, a priest who personally knows more than he might wish to know about the vagaries and pitfalls of ecclesial politics.  His response to her? The reminder that her  archbishop “is not the Catholic Church.” It works for me.

As for the cathedral and kids:  It’s a great place, with ledges to walk, stairs to run, and  railings to shimmy– all that,  outside. Inside, on a quiet weekday, it’s always still, and in small  doses, perfect for an active little boy to slow down and wander. True, a few times I’ve had to stare down tourguides,  but not often, and as I do, my prayer just goes something like this: All Are Welcome, REMEMBER?? Or should be and must be and will be.

(click photos to enlarge)

As for the future of Roman Catholicism? Following the Pew Research Results showing millenials leaving in droves,  Notre Dame’s Christian Smith argues that, despite the New Evangelization, his research proves that  the situation really is grim among young people (is there no middle ground, between Crushed Ice and  Wine?).

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