All posts by XingfuMama

Amateur photographer seeking beauty in both the memorable and the mundane. Sharing pictures, stories and meditations from here and there.

What’s Your Tribe?

Throughout history there has been a tendency for religion and politics to be mixed together. Caesar was worshiped as a god. The emperor in China was the central figure in religion as well. The divine right of kings…Even here in the US with our separation of church and state religion is becoming more and more intertwined with politics. It seems to be one of the defining elements in being Red or Blue.

Discussions of politics and religion tend to fall into two categories

Yes-Yes

Yes-No

Depending on whether the people involved agree or disagree.

Yes-Yes conversations tend to be pretty smug. Yes-No conversations are either confrontations or attempts at conversion, but there is always a sense that people think they are right.

Media loves a good conflict so they play up these differences. The type of conversation where there is nuance: “yes, but…”, “no, but…” or an honest “I don’t know” met with thoughtful discussion does’t seem to happen anymore.

Political and religious questions are often posed by someone trying to determine if you are a member of his or her tribal group. The story of people being required to say “Shiboleth” in the biblical story (Judges chapter 12) is a record of a simpler approach: if you couldn’t pronounce the word properly you were assumed to be an Ephramite (enemy tribe in the story) and killed.

I avoid discussing politics and religion for that reason, I usually either don’t fit in the box properly or, more and more often these days, don’t want to be affiliated with the owners of the box. Frequently because of how they treat people who don’t agree. We don’t, for the most part kill people literally but character assassination happens pretty often.

While I avoid discussions for the reasons above I think that both religion and politics are areas where the deep conversations, ones without foregone “right” answers are needed. The world is more complex and interrelated than it used to be and people do not live in isolation any more. We need to be learning about each other, the values both shared and different, looking for solutions that aren’t simplistic party-line approaches or “the Bible or Koran or Sutras or Hindu teaching says this” so we don’t look further.

response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Polite Company.”

My Baby’s Birthday

Sweet Baby James
Sweet Baby James

The tree peony is blooming, right on schedule. It was blooming the day he was born.

 

Birthday Cake and Boy
Birthday Cake and Boy

Almost every year I have baked him a cake. I made a dinosaur cake when he was five, a wild west cake when he was six, a space cake when he was seven… One year he said he wanted a cake from Safeway and it almost broke my heart. He got over that phase pretty quickly (my cakes really do taste better). He discovered and fell in love with tiramisu when he was twelve or so. Since it is kind of a pain to make, I only ever made it for his birthday and it became a tradition. It seems strange to not be gathering the ingredients for it. It feels a little melancholy when these little traditions get edged out of our lives.

2014 Birthday Cake
2014 Birthday Cake
Birthday celebration 2014
Birthday celebration 2014

Last year I visited him in China for his birthday. He didn’t have an oven so it was a store bought cake again. Shared with his friends in a hot pot restaurant.

Hard to believe that my little five pound peanut is six feet tall! I miss him.

Life is Good

Karma Chameleon, the song, came out my last year in College. I loved its cheerful tempo.

I don’t know much about karma, not only is it from another culture, but I think I may be more of a dogma girl. I like the idea of a set of rules I can live by. The idea about negotiation makes me fearful, especially if the stakes are high. I am not good at it. I always seem to loose my shirt (figuratively), I like to make people happy and in the heat of the moment I tend to say things based on that instead of what would be in my own best interest.

So I don’t know if karma is about what happens later in this life (although personal experience says that the nicer you are the more you get taken for granted and more and more get demanded from you…not exactly what I thought karma was supposed to be). But if it is about the next life I think I want to be reincarnated as my father’s dog Sam. She really lives the good life. Just spending an afternoon with her on the beach is lovely, maybe that is my good karma.

Sam running on the beach.
Sam running on the beach.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Karma Chameleon.”

Body Language

Learning a language is hard and it takes a lot of time and practice to master nuance. Not only that, but you can’t learn every language you might need. I would like to understand non-verbal communication better. A few times I have been in situations where there was no language cross over.

In Africa with people who spoke Kikamba and in China the language spoken had no kinship with English. In Europe most of the languages have at least a few words that make one feel like there is a connection. In both Africa and China, while it is true that younger folks have mostly some familiarity with English, older people (my age as opposed to my son’s age) often don’t have any familiarity with it at all, so I can speak as slowly and clearly as I want but nothing will get through.

Yet somehow with pointing, smiles, exaggerated facial expressions, along with charades, and the occasional drawn picture. many things can be communicated. I would like to be better at that.

I have had a few adventures where my, I like to think anyway, above average language skills in my native tongue have not helped me at all. Where being better at reading people and non-verbal communication would have been way more useful than fluency in the wrong language.

One of the more recent was last year and is outlined in my Let’s Go Fly a Kite post.

Harambee.
Harambee.

In Africa one happened having my hair washed. Mama Munini, our hostess, had arranged for the woman who washed her hair to come and wash mine (for the exhorbitant cost of ~$2). I just wanted it washed, it was in the 90-100 degree F temperature range and after traveling from Nairobi in a very full minivan (driver five passengers and a bunch of luggage, a harambee (tiny church very full of people), and walking about a fair amount for two days with only a wash basin of water to clean with I longed for a clean head.

Mama made the arrangements but had to go off and left me with a lovely lady who scrubbed my hair and scalp cleaner than it has ever been before. I thought we were done.

But then she rubbed in conditioner and carefully bagged my head up in black plastic to let it work.  When she rinsed that out I thought we were done.

But then she started to braid my hair. Since I had no way to communicate to her that I didn’t want braids I called to my son to go and get my supply of elastic hair thingies. I looked pretty odd but it was WAY cooler to have my hair in the braids which I left in for the five days until we returned to Nairobi. I wish I had been able to communicate…but then I would not have been as comfortable.

Munyoki family.
Munyoki family.

A similar situation occured when I went to visit Mrs. Munyoki, specifically Mama Elijah (Mr. Elijah is featured in Reward). I was to meet Mueni (Elijah’s sister) at the elementary school and go with her to visit her mother. I got to the school and she wasn’t there. Not sure quite what got said to whom but I was sent off, as it turned out cross country, with a fourth or fifth grader. He took me through peoples yards and gardens to Mrs. Munyoki, the principal’s wife not Mama Elijah (there are quite a few Munyokis in Mulundi). She understood where I was headed but insisted that I eat first. The rest of my party (including those who could understand) somehow found me there, where I was not supposed to be, eating fresh chapati so hot that they burned my fingers. We all went the last couple hundred yards together, and had to eat again with Mueni and Mama Elijah. I never was quite clear what happened…oh well.

It would be so nice to somehow understand, and yet I treasure these memories of times when I didn’t and somehow connected with people.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Take That, Rosetta!.”

Afloat

Water seems alive. It is what makes our planet able to support life. It can be comforting like a warm bath or the womb…Or it can be chilly and exhilarating.

Sometimes the wind is right and you can sail.

Man bundled up in Yellow with a bright orange life vest sailing a dinghy, duck is taking flight in front of the boat.
Sailing into a new year.

Other times you have to get out the oars and push yourself along.

Rowing the sailing dinghy.
Rowing the sailing dinghy.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Afloat.”

Under Obstruction

I walked to the store today, an exercise in frustration.

Ten years or so ago our area was designated an “Urban Village.” That means that they are building  like crazy, lots of new residential units that are not required to have parking…everyone is supposed to walk and use public transit.

They startedby reducing bus service. Now they are building on every corner.

Apparently we aren’t supposed to walk until they are done.

Rekindling the Fire

They lit the paschal fire tonight without me. This is the first time in many years that I have not watched the kindling of that fire and listened to the old stories, from creation to the empty tomb.

Sometimes I believe in God. Sometimes I don’t. But I have a strong belief in rekindling the fire.

We can relight the fire when it goes out. It isn’t a complete redo, the past with its scars is still there, but things can get better, we can improve we can do better into the future. We can light a new fire.

It is now Easter: around the world stories are being told and heard, starting with creation and ending with finding a tomb empty. To quote a wise man, Frederick Buechner if memory serves: “all tombs are empty”.

Tonight I will hit the remote and our gas fireplace insert will start up. It doesn’t have the primeval feel of the new light kindled each year at Easter Vigil, but the cat and I will revel in the warmth of the flames. In some tiny way we connect with the flame that represents life. Happy Easter to all and may the force of life that connects us all be with you. Amen.