My daughter asked me after hearing of the sad events caused by terrorism in Beirut and Paris the last 2 days: “why do humans terrorize other humans?” Questions like this always get us into a journey of search for the truth, for reason, for sanity and for an explanation that can offer settlement, even if it was short-lived.
We are given a choice, the moment we were born to be as good or as bad as we want to be. We battle with our own morality throughout our lives here on this planet. We seek out desperately that bit of cool blue logic to give us strength to choose wisely.
I posted several ‘pray for Paris’ tributes on social media today and I was caught by one comment from someone saying that “if prayer helped, then the world would already be a better place”. But do we just give up hope in the face of an uncertain future? What kind of world are our children inheriting?
From a recent journey to the old villages around Huangshan (yellow mountains) of China’s Anhui province, I was utterly inspired with the landscape, the feeling of calm that blankets the area and the mystical sense of being so far away from it all.
It made me think a lot about the nature of water, and reflections that are abundant in this place; the magic of seeing the world repeated, maybe for us to think twice.
A new month begins with images and stories from a land so enchanting called ‘Kampuchea’, the empire of the Khmers, the present day Kingdom of Cambodia, the land of the worshipers of Theravada Buddhism, of hill tribes, of stilt houses and of magical ancient temples. It is a place where mystery is alive and well and where today’s generation struggles to overcome the bloody history of its parents and grandparents, poverty, and social injustice to become once again the kingdom it deserves to be.
It gives me so much joy to dive back into this archive, and I hope that you will enjoy contemplating it with me through 31 images and not too many words.
At times when I hear myself grumble about my coffee not being the right taste or temperature, my mind goes back to this smiling girl and to her story…
After months of living in terror, running from prosecution by militias, escaping bullets, rape, sickness and capture, this Rwandan child arrived in a UNICEF supported medical clinic in Goma(Democratic Republic of Congo) on the Rwanda border. She receives milk in this orange cup and still has energy to flash me a heartfelt smile from her beautiful face and eyes heavy with exhaustion.
For the month of April I will share stories and images from a live changing journey into war-torn Congo.
a journey like no other~ boy on a camel in the desert~ Egypt
There are some places you travel to that remain alive in a very special place in your heart…
It really was a journey like no other, this adventure in Egypt. The pyramids, the sphinx, the desert, the camels, the ancient ruins, the mind boggling architecture, the friends, the strange carvings, the sense of being so different to the ancient culture that has been, the bedouins, the Nubians, and most of all the children of Egypt.
Our life experiences come together and culminate to make us who we are. This journey for me in this year to collect the salient bits of pieces of 12 of my life journeys, one a month, and to go through the process of examining them as one would a sand painting, with different colors, different essences and experiences and to then brush them away into the archives of my memories, hopefully learning a lesson in the process.
I am 2 days late in posting this because I am finding it so hard to leave my one month process with Lebanon, the most special place for me on this Earth. But life and this project must go on. On to the next journey in the next place which you will know about in the next post. It has been quite a journey the last month mentally traveling through my archives of photos, through my diaries and through the hieroglyphs of my mind. I hope you were able to get a small sense of how wonderful and extraordinary Lebanon was, is and can be. Thank you to all the wonderful people who have been following, commenting and encouraging along the way. Great thanks to the people at wordpress who added this blog to freshly pressed twice! And many thanks to those who have been nominating me for awards. I must admit, I have not figured out how the whole process works and what to do with them, but I will.
I am posting 2 self portraits from Lebanon, one with my beloved mountains and one gazing at the deep blue Mediterranean.
“Kadisha”, the name given to this valley and to the river that runs in its belly. Kadisha is ancient Aramaic for ‘holy’. This gorge has been used for burials and shelter as far back as the Paleolithic time. In its walls are thousands of caves that house monasteries, churches, thousands of meters high up in the cliffs and extremely difficult to reach. These served as a place of hiding for early Christian communities like the Jacobites, Melchites, Maronites, Armenians, Nestorians and Ethiopans who were escaping campaigns aiming to persecute and destroy them in the 13th Century by the Mameluks and other Sultans. Later it even became a place of meditation to the Sufis, historians, artists and clergy who settled in the valley. On its shoulders lies the village of Gibran Khalil Gibran.
One of my favorite churches as a child was a in the middle of a cliff facing our village in the valley and I remember the excitement every time a pilgrimage was planned to the church with family members and friends. The journey involved a very long walk down one side of the valley, pausing to have a meal at the cold fresh river to then hike up the other side on a tiny, steep, red soil track with the occasional olive tree, all the way up to the church, now a monastery. We all believed as children that the church was a place of miracles and we swore to seeing lights, visions and all sorts of magical things along the way.
The valley was and still is an enchanting memory that has a special place in the archives of my heart. I try to pass this to my daughter by taking her there whenever we can and telling her stories of what was, hoping that the spirit of the holy valley will choose to live with her too.
We are born, we live, we journey through life from event to event, we witness other travelers arriving, others leaving, we wonder where they came from, where are they going to, we search history books, we seek religion, we question science, we hope to hear any truth, any certainty from a wise sage, we pray to what we consider to be a higher force, we test our belief, we question reality, and we never really get THE answer we are looking for. All we get are more questions and a realization that our journey is only but a part of a much bigger one packed full of mystery and the answers lie within us to discover, maybe not here and not now, but somewhere sometime…
photo taken: man walking in an alley of the old water city Zhouzhuang, China