In crossculture. Peoplewatching. Community in the two-thirds world and other places. About questions too: "Higher up and further in!" with an outreach twist? How?

Posts tagged “writing

The Coolest Monastery in Potosi, Reading and Writing

“Suppose you (over)hear a conversation with something marvelous in it, then I advise you to write it down in your journal.  A hint is to write nice and small so you won’t use the book up with big loping writing.

One of the first things I’m going to write is a phrase I overheard as two people passed by my window the other day, talking about a friend of theirs.  ‘Her feet aren’t any use to her – not as feet, that is…’

It makes you wonder what on earth they ARE useful as, and there’s surely some story it can go into along the way.

If you listen well, you will have many more, and probably better quotes for yourselves.  You will look through them and realize that it would be positively criminal to waste them, and you will start writing straightaway!”  – Maeve Binchy, in her book “The Writer’s Club”.IMG_5700


Installment #2 from old notebooks just after I had turned sixteen. End of sophomore year.

June 1973. Wednesday Afternoon.

” I’m sitting down at the picnic table in the backyard – the sun is late afternoon – filtering down on me through the leaves of the mango trees above my head. The birds are having a symphony above me, twittering and singing and chirping at the top of their voices.

Rusty (the kitty, now with two kittens) has followed me down here and is in the process of rubbing her fur against my pen – which doesn’t work too well when your’e(sic) trying to write!

It is SO beautiful down here, quiet, filled with God. That is something I really miss in Kinshasa; Kinshasa with the trucks ROARING past the hostel, literally shaking it, the horns honking, people yelling, and loneliness. In the midst of over a million people, loneliness.

I don’t think I ever feel lonely here, really, and yet I am alone so much of the time. Probably because I’m right in the middle of my family here.

Some Great Writing Quotes

“Good writing is about telling the truth.” – Anne Lamott

“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve thought that there was something noble and mysterious about writing, about the people who could do it well, who could create a world as if they were little gods, or sorcerers. All my life I’ve felt as if there was something magical about people who could get into other people’s minds and skin, who could take people like me out of ourselves and then take us back to ourselves. And you know what? I still do.”  – Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird, p. 27 – 30.

Most Poignant Quotes by Good Writers #1

some of God’s breathtaking winter beauty in New Hampshire

“And we longed for the extraordinary. People rooted in security often do.” – from the novel What We Keep by Elisabeth Berg

Funniest Passages by Good Writers #2

“It was an oddity about me that the subject I had the most difficulty with, Science, was the one I loved the most. I would stare at formulas and admire them for their spare beauty without being able to grasp their meaning. The fact that they cleanly explained some higher law to someone else was enough for me. It comforted me.” – Elisabeth Berg in her novel What We Keep.

Funniest Passages by Good Writers #1

“The word ‘stillborn’ fascinated me. Still born. At nine or ten, I assumed it conveyed a purgatory-like labor, a delivery that went on forever.

“Is he still being born?”

“Indeed, he is. Horrible, isn’t it? They are now in their 3rd year of labor…”

-from Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

Reading and Writing in Ancient Times and Today

IMG_0577Thoughts come to mind last night and this morning, on books, reading, writing.

Read recently that in ancient times almost all reading was done aloud.  I think it was probably done more slowly too.  It was a group activity, communal.  Non-isolating.  Nice.  I imagine that the reading part of things felt group-ey and cozy, and then, afterward, the individual’s thought processes, going on alone and in privacy in the person’s head, the cogitations ABOUT what had been read, felt complementary and a fruitful offshoot from the communal reading experience.  Verbal processors would also have felt free to discuss together with others the readings that had taken place, even down to quoting and dissecting exact phrases and words.

Looking at the timeline in the front of my Bible this morning I see that papyrus to make paper and ink for writing were discovered by the Egyptians as long ago as 2500 B.C.  The first libraries then appeared!  I love a good library.  Have one on my Kindle, these days…

Two Kids and a Crawdad

A Poem.

Two Kids and a Crawdad

by NinadesusOjos


Sun-shot shadows of skitter bugs, on moving amber water,

Our pant knees rolled, our cold wet hands touch

as we pry that biggest rock,

sharing expectancy.

We turn the rock. Mud spurts up

and scooting over our toes, he glides

beneath another rock.

We scream, step back and trip with icy splash,

becoming, briefly, part of

pebbled sunshine, mud,

and dappled crawdad’s world.IMG_3311

The Stranger in our Shower

Good morning, dear world! I saw a post recently about how it’s probably healthier for kids to get a bath only one or two times a week, because their immune systems are still developing and, a certain amount of mostly benign flora and fauna in and on them helps their natural resistance to be strong. I think it has to do with, also, allowing their natural skin oils to accumulate a bit, which provides yet another healthy barrier against infection.

T’was comforting. It made me feel like a better mom, to realize that CERTAINLY I had followed this path with my beloved little ones, as a young mom, sometimes almost by DEFAULT, to be honest. The water and electricity cuts where we lived were so frequent and sometimes so long, that bathing my babies was impossible for days at a time. Except for sponge baths, of course, which are supposed to be super healthy for people anyways.

Reading that post brought back memories of how I would, sometimes, WORRY about the intensity and scope of the thick, light brown dust coverage on their little skins, not to mention deeply rubbed in grime and stains in blue jean knees and shirt elbows, that my happy, healthy little ones popped home with every day from hours playing outdoors with their young Quechua friends.

I remember Paul and me (the parents) actually dusting their clothing off with our hands, while it was still on them, as a matter of course. Visible clouds of fine dirt billowed out, before we lifted our youngsters across the threshold of our small apartment, to go inside with them.  I remember slipping their little shoes off their feet and dumping out CUPFULS of dust and sand! I remember, every once in awhile, a little face being so mud-covered that only the bright, big blue eyes twinkled out at me through the brown grime, under the towhead thatch of fine thick hair!

Digressing a little, but not much, I’m remembering how, one time Paul was away on a ministry trip to a rural area in the highlands. The huge, vibrant and growing loose consortium of all Quechua churches – the one with which we mostly worked, the U.C.E., was hosting a big yearly conference right on the same U.C.E.- owned property where we lived and where there was a Quechua Bible School. Thousands of Quechua people, from all over Bolivia, had arrived at the Bible School and were staying in student rooms, vehicles, and camping. Saturday morning had arrived and I slipped out of the Bible Institute property for a half an hour, striped nylon Bolivia shopping bags over my arms, to buy produce for my family in the Quechua farmer’s market just outside the Bible School gates, right there.  I left my baby and my tiny boys playing happily in the stone-flagged entryway to our apartment, door into our place cracked open, with my Quechua part-time housekeeper, Donya Marcelina, working in our little kitchen and keeping a gimlet eye on our kids, five yards away.

Twenty-five minutes later, walking back in, lugging bagfuls of fresh potatoes, lettuce, papaya, broccoli and Granny Smith apples, I smiled at my three offspring, still in our foreyard playing Legos with the kids of Benedicto and Braulia, and slipped in through our front door. Our place was tiny; distances are small. I turned toward the kitchen, still lugging produce, and called a greeting to Donya Marcelina. At that moment our bathroom door opened and a Quechua stranger, a man, came out, with a towel over his arm.

“Good morning, Senora!”. Huge grin.

I mumbled “Good morning”. I was in shock. I was not grinning.

He smiled ingratiatingly, and slipped past me, made a bee-line for the front door, and disappeared. His hair and skin were all wet.

“Donya Marcelina???” I sputtered.

She looked at me with concern in her warm, deep eyes.

“I know, Donya NinadesusOjos. But, he just walked in here, and started taking a shower, in the bathroom.  I assumed  you had given him permission, before you left! I am so sorry!”

I had the deepest, most intuitive liking, respect and trust for this lady, older than I, in whom I had implicit faith and from whom I had learned dozens of positive, amazing life hacks. I thanked my God for her every single day. I loved her, and her warm, open, authentic smile.

“It’s okay, Donya Marcelina! I’m not blaming you! It’s not your fault!”

And it wasn’t. It was just another example of …. life! I think God was trying to teach me, not only to trust Him more, but to laugh more, along the route.


Food Containers

We have these wonderful food containers in Bolivia that have a long rich history of their own. Since the food culture of the country isn’t particularly “cold light luncheon” or “sandwich” oriented – a hot meal is thought to be the “real food” of the day –  these traditional food containers are designed, in part, for hot soups, stews, cooked meat, and warm sides, though they also contain enough separate compartments for dessert and cool salad!

Environmentally, they’re wonderful!  You re-use them for a lifetime, every day, and you even pass them down to your grandchildren! What a concept!

One goes to a noon-time dinner place (a “pension” and, as one sits at the table waiting for one’s three to four-course hot meal to arrive – all for the equivalent, in pricing, of maybe three or four dollars!) one sees at least 5 to 6 people, often children, step into the pension, hand over to the clerk one of these multi-compartment food containers, and wait placidly for ten minutes, while the container gets filled for them, in the back kitchen, out of sight. The clerk comes back, carefully hands it over, now heavy with fragrant, steaming, home-cooked food, the child pays (or gets the meal written down on the running ticket and off goes the kid, this in hand. And, it’s a family thing, not individual. The food compartments are big enough to hold dinner for a family of six. Family dinner together (but over the noon hour, as it used to be in our grandparents’ heyday) is still a huge value in Bolivia.IMG_6447