Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Made it to Japan...

Flight was long, but bearably so. Unfortunately we didn't make it onto the NEx until the 7:13 train, so it was dark out during the ride. I was sad to miss the wind roaming the rice paddies, but maybe on the way back out we'll see it.

I wanted to write something here about renting cell phones in Japan, because it was a big question mark for us when we came out, and the information I was able to glean from the web was very limited. There are a couple of places that offer to rent cell phones, but prices are quite high. Not that cell phone usage is cheap otherwise here... But it turns out that the lowest advertised price we saw for cell phone rental on the web was higher than the lowest price we were able to obtain at a kiosk at Narita. So if you are flying to Japan and don't already know this, don't worry about it - you don't need to do something from home; just rent when you get here.

Andrea has a cell phone already, but I've yet to get mine. Hers has the most astonishingly obnoxious ring I've yet encountered. You can hear it on her blog.

Thursday, July 07, 2005


I've been playing a game called Matrix Online recently. The reason I got into it was partly to see how far 3d graphics had come over the past twenty years since I last hacked on it, and partly because the Matrix is such a great metaphor for how the world appears to us, and I wanted to see what the game designers had done with it. It turns out that the main focus of the game is killing people who are inconvenient and taking their stuff. Unfortunate. I might say more about it later - it wasn't a complete loss, and much of the work done by the people who made the game is genuinely brilliant.

But today's theme seems to spring from violence. Today the War Against The Bad People Who Don't Like Us killed some people in a place I've actually been, for a change. It's a strange thing, that people dying in a place that I know is real bothers me more than people dying in a place that I don't know is real, simply because I haven't been there.

I don't think it's a race or distance thing - the deaths of the members of the royal family in Nepal a few years ago, and the problems in Thailand back when Suchinda Kraprayoon was still in power, affected me similarly, because I'd been to both places and knew people there. They affected me in a way that the ongoing violence in Iraq rarely does. If you feel a similar frustration, I commend you to the American Friends Service Committee web site - www.afsc.org. Take a look at the Wage Peace movie. It helps to drive home the price that's being paid for whatever result we eventually achieve, or fail to achieve, in Iraq.

The thing that really got me this morning, though, was a letter from a close friend who is travelling in Europe with a bunch of other close friends, people who are very dear to me.

These are friends I met mostly in 1999, when I was living in New York. They all moved out to Arizona in 2000 to do a three-year silent retreat, and after a few months in New York, I followed, because things had gotten quiet in their absence. I moved to Bisbee, but when Andrea popped into my life a few months later, she convinced me to move to Saint David, which is a very nice, but much less hip, community a half hour north of Bisbee, and only ten miles from the retreat center, as opposed to forty. The house we rented had three bedrooms, and a cottage out back, so Andrea and I stayed in the cottage, and made places for the folks who were doing caretaking duty in the front house. It quickly became the ritual that I would sit in the front house with Elly and Andrea, at the table there. We'd each be on our computers, working, but we'd wander off from time to time into long philosophical conversations, or just happy gossip about life in India or Tibet. Sometimes another nun, Chukyi, would come in and participate, but she does better when it's quiet so that she can think without being interrupted, so she often would sit in another room working.

We were all very close then. When Andrea and I moved to Chicago, that environment went away, and we haven't seen its like since. Elly is still a dear friend, but we don't see as much of her.

This morning, when I logged onto Lily, I saw some messages there from folks asking if some of our staff, who I know happen to live in Europe, were okay. I knew that something bad had happened, and sure enough, the BBC had details. I also knew that Elly, and several other dear friends, were traveling in Europe, but I didn't know where they were. So there was this little kernel of worry in my heart, but I tried not to give it much time, because I knew it was irrational.

So then an hour or so later, I got email from Elly telling us that she and our other friends had in fact arrived in London that morning, and were okay, and I just started sobbing on my desk. It's sad that it sometimes takes events like this to remind us of what really matters in life, but the event is already over and done with, so I'll take the good from the aftermath.

I think we don't really realize how many people in the world there are who, despite or perhaps because of our quirks, still love us dearly.