What draws us into some faces more than others? Is it the smile or the frown or the wrinkles or the eyes that magnetize our attention and forge a memory with a longer shelf life. I realize now that I have long been a collector of faces. The beauty of a distant land or my own home state may captivate me, but a region’s facial landscapes become the landmarks that I remember. I’m drawn to the imperfect face more often […]
The bride sought the shadows of the long afternoon as the bridegroom’s village filled with strangers anxious to see who would marry a favorite son. For hours, the Bengli villagers in China’s Guizhou Province had chopped, sizzled and stirred every part of a slaughtered pig and all the vegetables they could find. It was a sign of good luck when the wedding feast spilled out of the pans to satisfy all of the guests, most members of the 72 Dong Village […]
When China’s dead pig problem bubbled to the surface in Shanghai’s rivers last week, I wasn’t surprised. Every meal I ate in China last October and November featured some part of a pig. On the one night when a flavorful white meat swam in a soupy broth, I thought we’d hit chicken pay dirt until the server informed me that we were eating a favorite character of my childhood – Piglet. (Help, help, cried Piglet, “a Heffalump, a Horrible Heffalump!”) Half […]
He enjoyed the songs of early morning when the hua mei showed off for the sun. He loved the songs of late afternoon when the winds tickled the branches and rocked the song thrush’s cage as it hung over his garden of tender greens in the Chinese village of Shui Dian. When the tawny bird sang the moon to sleep, the sound stirred the sweetest of dreams. If language were not our barrier, the man in the garden would have […]
The boys took turns staring at the restless ponies pulling at the damp grass and the impatient girls hiding from the cold rain. The air smelled of wet earth, cotton candy and fried pork. Children laughed and jumped in the inflatable tent, and the adults lifted their voices in warning only when a water buffalo or a dog broke loose from the fighting circles. For the Longtai villagers deep in southern China, the harvest season had been difficult with bouts […]
The girl flinched as her mother lifted the silver headdress on to the dish towel wrapped tight around her head as protection from rough edges. Dressing daughters requires delicate negotiation and creative fortitude for mothers of the Miao minority groups in southwestern China. Wedged into a tiny space under a village school’s stairwell, Clear Water Miao mothers and daughters pulled layers of festival adornment from nylon bags carried upon their backs. Up the misty mountain trails and down the slippery […]
She didn’t want to come down the stairs for the first few moments. Perched on a shaky bannister, she peered down on a pack of photographers focusing on the graceful curve of a staircase leading to rundown apartments on a backstreet in Cuba. I could feel her watching and then saw her duck into the shadow. She was curious about us, these Americans who were now coming to her neighborhood nearly every few weeks. When I waved a pink ink […]
He didn’t answer the phone like a man who wanted people to come see his camels. “What the hell do you want?” I imagined him sitting in a kitchen with a spread of fried okra and two-day old brown beans parked next to a wad of tobacco drying on a broken saucer. The old man knew his way around a horse, but it was tough to make much money on the kind of horses he could afford. He had a […]
The boy stood in the Berber market and stared until I pulled the camera from my face and looked him in the eyes. I thought he might smile, but he didn’t. His father flinched in the chair as the souk barber grazed the tip of his ear, but the boy didn’t notice. It was my 50th birthday, and I wanted to spend it surrounded by three friends and a country of strangers. What I needed was a reminder that the […]
The men were building something important. You could see it in the firm conviction pounding each fresh-cut board into place. There were no women around so when a sweat-drenched trail wench in a lopsided cowboy hat rounded the corner, the men held the tools in the humid air and stared as if a Yeti had just tap danced into the village. “They are building a school,” my guide said. “Do you want to go in and sing?” I had sung […]
The first time I ran away to a foreign land I was about 6 years old. A mystical destination whispered to me through the windows of my tiny two-bedroom house so I waited until my mother was loading the washing machine before I slipped out the storm door and set sail. I chose a dependable vessel, a turquoise banana-seat bicycle bought from Otasco. I steered through my neighborhood to a magical port where tigers ran around trees until they spun […]
She drifts in and out of my life like an unsettling gust of wind. She is 6, maybe 7. Dirty-face. Tattered clothes. Often, barefoot. She has these eyes, these liquid-rich eyes that pour into your soul and drown you in their sadness. I have met her many times. High above the blue city of Jodhpur, she ran from a shack made of trash and twirled my hair in her fingers as if it were silk thread. She kicked at the […]
Apparently, if you snooze at this busy street market in Thailand, you don’t lose. As this shopkeeper caught up on a few zzzz’s, his customers simply picked out what they wanted, sacked it up and left money in a jar. Always trust a good customer – even when you’re not minding your own business.
You can see the worried look on a man’s face more easily when you are entrusting him with your life. You recognize the extra wrinkle, the furrowed brow, the look of concern. When he walks away with his hand upon a knife, you trust his judgement. You must. We started our two-day 4,715 ascent toward Sakteng, home of Bhutan’s Brokpa tribe, on March 19, 2010. In our river camp on the first night, we stretched our sore muscles and […]
At the end of a dusty day, we turned from the smooth comfort of good pavement and paused beneath a lone shade tree in the Gadna village of India. The sound of strangers stirred the Banjaras to leave their boiling curry pots and stolen treasures for they could smell the clean scent of fresh prey, and we were it.
Today – March 22 – is World Water Day. As you turn on your tap, I hope you take time to appreciate how lucky most of us are to live in homes where water is simply expected. We don’t have to work hard to get it. We don’t have to pay much for it. But travel long enough, and you will see what happens when water runs dry. The impact that a drought or a dry well has on a […]