Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tower of London

The flat we were borrowing (thanks, Shannon!) was just a few blocks from the Tower of London so we saw that first (and every day on our way to the Tube). You may or may not know that Boo is obsessed with all things Elizabethan right now and so we knew more about the Tower than we would have otherwise and we really enjoyed seeing it through her eyes and texting her photos. The British aren't as kitschy as we Americans are and thank goodness they haven't Disneyfied their historical sites, but they do make it fun, what with all the palace intrigue and the beheadings and the sex scandals and so on. I really wanted to see a castle on the trip and this was pretty close.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

London . . . finally!

I know, I know . . . I promised London photos and commentary weeks ago and haven't done anything about it. As always, I get paralyzed by the scope of things and end up doing nothing. So, it finally occurred to me: I could do a little bit every day! And it only took me two weeks to come up with that brilliant idea.

So. The first photo I'm posting is St. Paul's cathedral from my seat in a little cafe across the street. Why St. Paul's? Well, because everyone kept asking me, "What was your favorite part of the trip?" and I think I'd have to say that except for having 7 days with my sweetheart of 25 years, St. Paul's was my favorite.

I can't really put into words the soaring, sacred feeling it gave me. The sheer massiveness of it is breathtaking, of course, but that wasn't really it. I think that what I felt when I stood under the dome, under the canopy of mosaics and paintings, was exactly what Christopher Wren intended for me to feel. The scale of the cathedral is clearly meant to express the transcendence of God but the art is all about God's immanence.

First, we audio-toured the cathedral with all the tourists (I was really impressed at how well the audio described Christian theology for the unfamiliar visitor). Then we went back and sat under the dome and we were quiet. We walked up to the dome itself and then we went down into the crypt. At 5:00, we were there for Evensong which turned out to be a lovely but austere service because it was a bank holiday and the organist and choir were gone. Then, on our last day, we went back to the cathedral and paid the entrance fee again, just so I could see it and feel it one more time.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The latest on Mowgli

So, as most of you know, Mowgli's passion for all things Tibetan has taken him to western China and India this summer and fall. He's now in McCloud-Ganj in India (yes, I'm having lots of fun with GoogleEarth) and will pretty much stay put until he comes home in December.

He spent ten weeks with a group from school in western China, hiking up to almost 19,000 feet, living for a week with remote mushroom farmers and traveling another week with mountain nomads. The best story we've heard so far involves Mowgli hiking in a very remote area and encountering a Tibetan holy man from a very remote village . . . who just happened to be carrying in his robes a business card of the only westerner he knew, who just happened to be Mowgli's professor.

Currently, he lives in a hotel in a room by himself with a bathroom (with a bucket shower) and a TV for $2.50/day. He says the food is wonderful and the scenery is gorgeous (valley in front, Himalayas behind) and the constant presence of other westerners as well as very friendly Tibetans and Indians has made him feel completely comfortable.

He had the opportunity to hear the Dalai Lama teach last week and will be sitting in on three days worth of his lectures this week. He also is studying at the archives, taking Chinese classes and volunteering with two NGOs, one working on issues related to peace and nonviolence and the other helping Tibetans in India learn English and western culture through social interaction with westerners. In interacting with the locals, he said that he apparently resembles a particular Bollywood actor and that has been interesting; also, those who don't speak English will come up to him and shake his hand, smiling, saying only, "Obama! Obama!"

We miss him, of course, but can hear in his voice that he is truly having the time of his life. He can call pretty regularly from a phone booth at an internet cafe where he also picks up email, so we feel much more connected (We had very little contact during the time he was in China). This photo is of him the day he left, carrying only a backpack and a camping pack--only one change of clothes and a jacket and rain pants. When we talked to him last night, he said he had only bought one set of traditional clothes and otherwise just has the limited amount of things he left with.

That's pretty much what we know about Mowgli. Next post will be an update on the rest of us, since I've been gone so long.