Travel Note: Stories Sit In Places

We are in Kyoto now, five sleeps away from our flight home. We arrived here shortely after a two day hike along a very old pilgrimage route, the Kumano Kodo.

If you understand the Kumano, they've been saying for a long time, you will understand Japan. I can't claim to understand the Kumano but I've seen enough to say that they are probably right.

Travel Note: Sumo

We spent a whole day at Tokyo's Ryogoku Kokugikan, The National Sumo Stadium, watching day 13 of a sumo tournament. There are six of these 15-day tournaments each year, held in different cities. Each wrestler fights one match each day. The tournament days run from 8 or 10 am until 6 pm. Junior players fight in the morning. The higher ranking Juryo and Makuuchi divisions have their matches in the afternoon.

Healing, Distance & Harm

The following is a short lecture presented at the inaugural Hungry for Change Gala at the University of Western Ontario on 30 April 2008.

I was asked to speak to you tonight largely because I spent most of last year working in Cambodia. In the next 15-20 minutes I want to share some of my experiences and reflections with you.

One of the most important lessons that I learned in practice was this old one that most of you, I imagine, are familiar with:


Today, 16 of April 2007, I saw the ocean floor for the first time. More precisely: today, for the first time, I saw the ocean floor more than 20 meters from the shore. It turns out there really are fish there. Lots of them and at the depths I was at (about 90 smurfs or 4.5 Jacques Cousteaus below the surface) still remarkably colourful despite the bleaching effects of the seawater filtering out the warm tones of the sun. And yet it was anticlimactic in a way that I had anticlimactically predicted. Firsts aren't all they are made out to be. I have wanted to dive for a long time.

Found: Lightness by Italo Calvino

From Six Memos for the Next Millennium Chapter 1: Lightness.

I will devote my first lecture to the opposition between lightness and weight, and will uphold the values of lightness. This does not mean that I consider the virtues of weight any less compelling, but simply that I have more to say about lightness.

Self-obsessed travel update #6: Life is Elsewhere

(Note: Title from Milan Kundera. Written between the end of February and now.)

This is not a comfortable place and the discomfort is much more widely felt than I realized. It struck me only very recently, after 3 months here, how so few people can remain sober after work. The number of bars run and catering to foreigners here is staggering even if you disregard most of the tourist establishments on the waterfront. On the waterfront the bars have patios where you can watch the people and traffic flow and beyond that the river. They are places for watching.

Self-obsessed travel update #3 Addendum: The Bats

This brief addendum is necessary because in my last letter I forgot about the bats. The bats are important. I don't know how they escaped my mind.

I. The Bats

Self-obsessed travel update #3 : Racist Olympic Butterflies

I. I, racist

Self-obsessed travel update #2: Foreigners drying meditating & flying kites with incompetent oppressors

I have been avoiding writing this for the past week since there is a lot to cover but it gradually dawned on me that the longer I waited the worse things would get so here we are.

Hello. I hope you are all well.

I. The Foreigners & I, a Foreigner

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