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The Journal:
May
, 2007
Please don't bookmark this as "The Journal," as the link will change monthly.
Use the Journal Index Page for your permanent destination!

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My Web
25 26
Getting Married
27 28
29
Our Wedding Day
30
Honeymoon in P.I.
1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
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20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31    
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.See the Journal Index Page for current moon phase information

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May 2, 10:09 GMT May 10, 4:27 GMT May 16, 19:27 GMT May 23, 21:02 GMT
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I'm cheating a little. The first few posts under May are in APRIL!
But it was near the end of the month, and mostly wedding related, so...

Check the BLOG for updates!


Tuesday,
April 24

Threads on the Web
Where you can find me...

My presence on the internet is scattered far and wide. Here are most of the places you will find me: 

The Temple Guy
(http://www.thetempleguy.com)

This is my oldest and largest page. It started back in 2001 as my Aki Meguri at www.connectedjapan.com (now defunct) when I was walking through Japan. This layer survives in slightly revised form.

Next was my pre-China and early-days-in-China blog, "The Barefoot Fool." When that blog died, I transferred the material here.

The rest of The Temple Guy was created to record information on temples in China. There are also some semi-philosophical essays in the Articles section; these will eventually be transferred to You Are That (see below).

The Laughing Buddha
(http://www.thelaughingbuddha.org)

This page was created to promote activities for expats and English-speaking Chinese in Shenzhen. We have slowed down quite a bit and readjusted our focus, so the page is rather quiet. Eventually it will probably be absorbed into another project "in development."

You Are That
(http://www.youarethat.org)

This page is a repository for my philosophical and religious ramblings. The best introduction is the "Foundational Essays." There's also a lot on Joseph Campbell. And in the summer of 2006 I had a unique experience teaching in a temple in Fujian; much of this was covered in The Journal (where you are now). Expect more of this as I prepare to go to work in a temple in Jiangsu later in 2007.

James

The Shenzhener Blog
(http://shenzhener.blog.com/)

One purpose of The Laughing Buddha was to provide information in English for visitors and resident expats in Shenzhen. It has been became easier to do this through occasional posts to a blog. This has been suspended while we work on a new project...

?

"In Development"

Now we are working on the homepage that Shenzhen has long needed, with a complete City Guide, magazine-like Feature Articles, and an active Community section. Stay tuned...

* * * * * * * * 

Well, that about covers my web endeavors. By the time you've read everything that's already online, we should have a LOT more for you.

Peace.

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Thursday,
April 26

YAAAYYYYY!!!!...ugh... 
Getting married

Well, the wedding is only three days away. How do I feel, you may ask?

Excited, thrilled, exhilarated...and terrible.

I've been living over three years in south China, called by one expert "the influenza epicenter." (Note that this article is over nine years old, and talks about H5N1. We are now dealing with H5N2. Bird flu: another reason to be a vegetarian.)

And at last, I've caught a good one. Not bird flu, but flu enough. I think I have missed more workdays this week than in the previous three years combined. Why is this happening now? 

Stress.

I mean, look at it. I'm getting married Sunday, and I get sick this week. It's obvious.

I was over in Hong Kong Monday, taking care of business (paying for the tickets to the Philippines for the "honeymoon," negotiating for a consulting job in Yangzhou, Jiangsu). Then I spent several hours pounding the pavement in search of rings (we'll have to buy them in Manila, I guess) and suitable shoes for the kurta I'm wearing.

Before I headed back across the border to meet Crazy Al, my best man, for dinner, I started feeling achy all over. That night, I discovered I had a fever of 101F (38.3C). My head and intestines soon showed me that my muscles and the thermometer had not lied: I was sick.

But I still don't know WHY I'm stressed. Seriously.

Look at this: About.com has an article on "the top five people who will stress you out" when getting married. Let's look at them, and assess my situation:

5. Wedding vendors: This is an obvious source of trouble in most cases, always pressuring you to spend more. But we only have one vendor--Spice Circle restaurant--and they are like family. Inder (the assistant manager) made me promise not to tell anybody the price he gave us, so others won't ask for it. And Sunny (the manager) and his wife Vinnie, took us into their home and gave us the clothes we will wear for the ceremony. Vinnie even took us into Luohu Commercial City to oversee the tailoring! Minimal stress here.

4. Divorced and bickering friends/family members: None here.

3. Well meaning opinions of others: No one has tried to influence how we are doing things.

2. Your parents: Three out of four are half a world away; the other is on an archipelago that requires a 90-minute flight. No trouble there.

1. Each other. Get this: About.com says:

The most common complaints are "He's not doing anything to help with the wedding" and "she never talks about anything other than the wedding."

HA! Because Lila is in another city Monday-thru-Friday and works 40 hours plus overtime, while I am in Shenzhen and usually work around 12 hours a week, I have done much of the legwork. AHA! you say. THERE'S THE STRESS! But really, this is as low key an affair as possible. Lila is so easygoing about it that her mantra has become "I just want to get this over with" (romantic, huh?).

So she's not applying any pressure, and the process itself is pretty simple: A civil ceremony in Hong Kong = no decorating the church, no "entourage" (just two witnesses, or Best Person and Person of Honor), etc. The "reception" is just a party: no band, no cake, no caterers, just a bunch of friends meeting at one of our favorite restaurants. Our pal Gentleman Jess is a great photographer and offered to snap a few at the wedding.

So whence the stress?

Ah, I think About.com missed the largest single source of stress in a wedding:

oneself.

A few facts:

  • I was married before--and failed 

  • I've been single (and selfish) for seventeen years 

  • I have found a near-perfect person, which puts a lot of pressure on me to be a better man 

  • Things always change after a wedding 

Etc., etc., etc. You see, it's not the wedding that stresses. It's the marriage.

Let me be clear: Lila is the light of my life. She is a positive, upbeat, smart, funny, deeply spiritual, loving person. We share a lifestyle few can match for sheer joy. I have never met anyone who didn't like her. Everything about her is in the "plus" column.

But no matter who you marry, marriage is a big change (at least, it is if you take it seriously, which I do). And change = stress. Even POSITIVE change.

So, in a few days, the headache and the tummy troubles will be gone. Lila will be a permanent part of my life. And it's going to be a good life. Already, I am living a life that I never imagined ten years ago or so. And it's just going to get better.

Thanks, BB. I can't wait to be married to you.

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Sunday,
April 29

Da Nupchals
In which Lila and I get hitched

I and my sweetie, Ms Eloisa Malubag Jose, also known by her secret identity Lila Devi Dasi, tied the knot on Sunday, April 29, at 12:30 p.m.

But that moment was just the kernel of several days of activity.

It all started on the internet…[imagine wavy hands and “doodle-ee-doo, doodle-ee-doo, doodle-ee-doo” for a Wayne’s-World-type flashback…]

Back in early 2005, I was searching the net for information on a place called Nanshe Ancient Village in the city of Dongguan. My search brought me to the Virtual Tourist page of one “Zephyrgurl108,” whose profile indicated that she was a vegetarian who sometimes visited Shenzhen with her carnivorous friends.

Swell guy that I am, I wrote and offered to show her and her friends around SZ some time, including a temple visit and some veg food. (You may think you see a flaw here, but meat-eaters can eat veg.)

She (and she alone) came and met me on Chinese New Years. We went to Hong Fa Temple, and by the time dinner was over, it was late. She slept on my sofa, and headed home the next morning.

For the next several weeks, she came to see me every weekend and followed me around in my various activities. (Don’t think this sounds pathetic or anything; I lead a truly fascinating life.)

Long story short: In less than two months we were a couple.

Oh yeah: Nanshe, the place that I was searching for when I found her? I’ve never been. But she went, with my friends, during the summer of 2005, while I was in L.A. See her pics and an account of her trip here.)

Fast forward to earlier this year:

The job in Yangzhou was becoming more of a reality; it would take me away from her for a month or two at a time. Knowing that I had found the love of my life, and that I couldn’t bear to let her slip away, I asked her to marry me before I went. Fortunately, she said yes.

The timing depended on two factors:

1. When could we get an appointment at the Hong Kong Marriage Registry? (Two foreigners cannot get married in the PRC, but HK is pretty easy).

2. When would our friend Alan, the clear choice for Best Man, be available?

All factors pointed to April 29. So that’s what we did. I went over to HK a couple of times in the weeks before the wedding to pay the fees and do the preliminary paperwork. Then the Big Weekend arrived.

In order to get married, we had to register Lila’s presence in HK during regular Registry office hours. Had we been getting married Monday-Saturday this would have been no problem. But since our date was a Sunday, we had to come over a day ahead, on Saturday before 11:30 a.m., to show the entry stamp in her visa before the office closed. After that, we checked into a hotel near the Marriage Registry in Shatin, and headed off for our “rehearsal dinner” with our “wedding party”--actually just lunch with a couple of friends.

Now, a funny thing: The clear choice for Maid of Honor, our friend Angel, was studying in Guangzhou on our wedding day. The next obvious choice was a recently-met friend who spent every weekend with us. But Adam, as the name would indicate, is a guy.

So we had a Best Person and a Person of Honor, as you can see here:


Alan (l) and Adam (r)

Adam and Alan came over on Saturday. We had a great lunch at one of Hong Kong’s finer vegetarian restaurants. After a walk around Kowloon, Adam and Alan returned to SZ, and Lila and I returned to the hotel near the Marriage Registry. We had a shower and a nap, and ordered room service for dinner--like a honeymoon before the wedding!

The next morning we had a leisurely breakfast in the hotel, and then took a cab to the Marriage Registry. (It was near, but we were in our wedding clothes and had our suitcases with us.) We did some final paper work, and greeted arriving friends. As usual when we gather friends, over a half-dozen countries were represented.

Hong Kong is a fairly stiff-upper-lip-conservative place when it comes to such things as weddings; a pamphlet in the Marriage Registry discussed appropriate dress and behavior for the ceremony. So the ceremony itself was meant to be solemn; the Justice of the Peace certainly had no sense of humor. But as you can see in our friend Jesse’s picture, Lila and I were cracking each other up as usual. (The unsmiling lady J.O.P. is just visible in the top-right corner.)

After the ceremony, most of the guests stuck around for lunch at the Ruby Tuesday’s in Shatin New Town Plaza. Then the P.R.C.-side gang (minus the Hong Kongers) went back to Shenzhen and relaxed for a bit before the evening’s party.

A few weeks earlier, Lila and I had been dining with friends at Spice Circle, one of our favorite Indian restaurants. When Sunny, the manager, stopped by our table, I asked if he knew where we could get Indian-style clothing for our wedding. He called his wife Vinnie, who came and picked us up after dinner. She took us to their home, where Lila tried on several salwar kameez, and I tried on a kurta.  Lila was set; the following weekend, Vinnie took us to Luohu Commercial City to have my kurta “let out” a little. The money we spent on that tailoring was the only money we spent on the clothes; Vinnie and Sunny graciously supplied them to us for free.

It was natural, then, that we chose Spice Circle for our party. On top of all of the other kindnesses shown, another manager, Inder, gave us a per-head price for the party that was so low that he swore me to secrecy--I couldn’t even tell Sunny!

The party was a blast. We had great fun and, afterward, when just a small group remained, our friend John Krieger pulled out a small accordion and serenaded us with folk music! What a night.

We’ll break off the wedding account here; next up: Da Honeymoon.

Check out some pictures online:

Lila’s pics of the Shatin wedding and lunch
            Proxy for those in China*

Lila’s pics of the Spice Circle party
            Proxy for those in China*

Our friend Jesse Warren’s pics of both occasions
(Jesse is a pro who shot around our events for free. Number 20 (below), with a bunch of kids who happened to be outside the Marriage Registry, is one of my faves. All five pictures in this post are his. Thanks, Jesse!)

*If for any reason these links don't work for you, email me at jamesbaquet AT gmail DOT com and I'll give you some help in accessing these sites.

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Monday,
April 30

Off to Manila
Three people on a honeymoon
(A note on links for those in China)

[A note to readers, especially those who were there: I'm writing this in late July, nearly three months after the fact, and without notes. So some details may be a bit misplaced or hazy. But the gist is right, I think; correct me if you know otherwise.]

The day after the Big Day found us heading down to Hong Kong Airport for a brief flight to Manila.

Social butterflies that we are, we had invited friends to come along on our honeymoon. (This was the May 1 holiday, so most of our friends would have the week off.) And one of them, Adam, our "Person of Honor," said "Take me along!" (Who else do you know that has a "group honeymoon"?)

So off we went. And Adam showed us something cool: If you've flown through HKIA three times in a year, you can register for a kind of "Frequent Flyer" card that gets you express service. So he was through the immigration line well before us. We registered for the cards on our return trip.

Next stop after Immigration: Burger King! As far as we know, this is the only BK in HK--inside the departure area, for ticketed passengers only. We love the Veggie Whopper, so we were thrilled to note on our way back home that there is now a BK outside the ticketed area; we can cruise down for a burger and fries anytime.


photo by Jesse

A word about Adam: He, like Lila and me, is a vegetarian. In fact, the way we met was rather cool. Lila had posted a notice online about the yoga classes she organizes, and Adam, a newcomer to Shenzhen, had queried her about them. When she told me, I noted the name: first, because another friend named Adam had just left SZ, and second, because he shares a family name with the closest "branch" on my family tree: the Woods. So, the following weekend, when Lila was here, I got an email from an "Adam Wood" asking about my Sunday-morning Buddhist discussions. "Hey, Honey," I yelled to her in the living room, "Didn't some guy named Adam Wood write to you...?" He found both of us online in the same week! We're still close friends; as I write this in late July 2007, we had just spent our entire Sunday with Adam and a couple of other close friends, first at a buffet, then grocery shopping for prepackaged Indian food (well, Lila went; I skipped that part), then watching a movie at home and eating some of that Indian food.

Anyway, back to the airport: as we three veg-heads sat savoring our burgers, I suddenly realized: we were late! The gate would be closing in minutes. Adam's built for speed, and he sprinted through the airport. (Try that in the Land of Homeland Security and see what happens). Lila was close behind, and me--well, not so close. But we made it.

An uneventful flight to Manila, followed by check-in at our home-in-Manila, Malate Pensionne. Dinner was the usual trip to Mexicali in Robinsons Mall, but with a twist: We love their vegetarian food, and had really built it up to Adam. But when we got there the girl told us they hadn't had their vegetable delivery that day! And we were leaving the next morning, so we'd have to wait until the end of the week for our veggie-burger "fix"!

I think we ate panini that night...?

* * * * * * * *

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Tuesday,
May 1

The Bus to Baguio
In which I meet a real Filipino
(A note on links for those in China)

And the next day started with a 6-7 hour bus ride to Baguio. This time of year is summer in the Philippines. Manila is hotter than Hades, and Baguio, at over 5,000 feet, is somewhat cooler than Hades. In fact, it's the summer capital: the government moves up there each summer to avoid Manila's heat.

Six hours is a long time in a bus; sleeping and iPods helped. But Lila always whiles away some of the time by shooting pictures from the bus window. Some of her shots are of the countryside; others, like the one here, show something of life in the Philippines. You can see more of her pictures from the bus here. (These include shots of the trip in both directions, so some are dated May 1 and others May 4.)

(A word about the pictures in this post: Most of the things I shot from about March to July are locked up in a dead hard drive; almost all of the great shots you see in this post are Lila's. She's quite talented, but don't tell her I said so; she might get a big head.)

Upon arriving, our three vegetarian heroes made a beeline to the first stop in The Baguio Dining Trifecta: Oh My Gulay, a veg restaurant and artspace (article and photos at Pinoy Travel Blog). Be sure to take a look at the pictures of this amazing site, and Lila's shots (linked below) as well.

While Adam and Lila were looking around, she ran into her old professor, Kidlat Tahimik. This guy is a real a character, a promoter of the concept of the "true Filipino," uncowed by European culture. Part artist, part film director (one of his films was distributed by Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope Films), part shameless showman, he believes (according to his wife's book, Kapwa ) in a return to simplicity, to traditional values, to "collective sensitivity." For example, he calls the television "The Trojan Idiot Box," and sees it inculcating non-traditional values in the (addicted) viewers. He sees rejection of the television as part of a 500-year "cultural resistance" on the part of Filipinos against European imperialism.

Ah, I could go on. Anyway, we met, and he promised us a copy of his wife Katrin de Guia's book. When I picked it up on Thursday, I was delighted to discover two things. First, his inscription read, "To Lila and James: The search for our artistic sariling dwende [inner strength] and for our Indio-genius strengths goes on...just as the way plotted out in Comm 122 [Lila's class] Kidlat Tahimik." And second, Dr. de Guia starts the chapter on Kidlat with references to Joseph Campbell and Mircea Eliade, both of whom I've studied and written about for years.

We headed up to Iggy's Inn, run by our friend Diego Bautista. Diego is the Bad Boy of the noble Bautista family. His grandfather founded the University of Baguio; his cousin was acting mayor when we were there; his parents are pillars. And Diego? He's a bud, someone to hang with and laugh with. But he wasn't there. So we checked in and settled down for the night.

See a list of all of Lila's photo sets on Flickr from this trip down below

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Wednesday,
May 2

Doing Baguio
A day of good food and sightseeing
(A note on links for those in China)

We rose Wednesday and set out for the second stop of The Baguio Dining Trifecta: Cafe by the Ruins, an ultra hip, ultra-casual dining and artspace built amongst the ruins of a former governor's mansion destroyed in the America bombing campaign against the Japanese near the end of World War II. Incredible indoor/outdoor ambiance; great breakfast and baked goods. And while we were there, our friend Jim Ward, owner of Bliss Cafe (the number 3 stop of The Baguio Dining Trifecta) happened in for breakfast! We made plans to see him that evening, and set off for our first proper tourist destination.

Tamawan Village is an assemblage of traditional Igorot huts, and provides work and sales space for a number of local artists and traditional craftsmen. (Starting to see a theme? Baguio is all about food and art.) You can also rent a hut for the night and really "go native." Overall a truly charming place, in a mildly touristy sort of way.

Next stop: The Bell Church. Although it started out as a Buddhist temple, it now blends the various Chinese religions, with a dash of Christianity thrown in for good measure. In other words, it's a good, solid Chinese-community-based temple, where the major Chinese holidays are observed by the Chinoy (that's Chinese + Pinoy [a Filipino word for a Filipino]).

I can't quite remember what we did after that, but by dinner time we were on our way to Number Three: Bliss Cafe. Jim Ward had promised to take us to the Baguio Buddhist Temple. Although it was too late for many pictures of the buildings and grounds, we were lucky enough to catch Sifu Christine in a rare, unbusy moment.

Sifu Christine is also a Chinay (female Chinoy), who grew up with no overt connection to Buddhism. While living in California, however (note the irony), she became associated with The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Talmage, north of San Francisco. Ultimately she became a nun, and has been in Baguio for several years.

Then, back to Bliss! (I mean us, not the nun.) Like the other two parts of the Trifecta, Bliss Cafe has an interior that makes the heart sing. But it's the people that really cinch it. It was so great to catch up with Jim (and Shanti, when we could get her out of the kitchen). We met an Indian vegetarian named Santosh, and a couple of Peace Corps volunteers who worked up north. (This was not too long after the shocking murder of Peace Corps worker Julia Campbell; although the girls we met had known her, Julia was not discussed. Jim and Shanti had hosted a memorial service for Julia less than two weeks earlier, with Sifu Christine officiating. I don't know, maybe because it was our honeymoon, but we just avoided the whole subject. Thought about it, though.)

Jim and Shanti are truly special people. I could do a whole blog on their incredibly diversified life experiences. But what really "sticks" is their warmth, their kindness, the giving that they do for the community. They are a paradigm of the compassionate entrepreneur. The first time we met them, in the summer of 2005, was when our bud Diego had taken us to the former location of Bliss on a Sunday night. We wanted to eat there again on Monday, but alas! they would be closed on Monday, and it would be our last day in Baguio. Not to worry: Jim called us Monday morning to arrange a pickup, and took us to their house that night for dinner and a game of Cranium (on which Lila is now hooked). I can't tell you the peace it brings to walk into a new town and find food, art, friends-for-life--all in a matter of half-a-week!

After a very satisfying meal, conversation, and viewing of Jim and Shanti's wedding pictures, we headed back to Iggy's. Still no Diego, though.

See a list of all of Lila's photo sets on Flickr from this trip down below

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Thursday,
May 3

Finally, Diego!
We start out with disappointment, and end on a high note
(A note on links for those in China)

The day started with a fiasco. (And sort of ended with one. Ha.) At Tamawan Vllage the day before, the ticket-taker had told us of a restaurant called "Eve's Garden." It sounded a bit like Sonya's Garden in Tagaytay, where we had had a literally stunning dining experience in October last year (it was so heavenly that, at one point while we were eating, Lila looked at me and asked innocently, "Are we dead?") So, despite having only the vaguest of directions, we figured Eve's would be worth it. (And, as Adam quipped, he just had to be with Eve!) So we jumped in a cab and set off. Numerous wrong turns and considerable wasted time later, we found it: and found that it was closed! I wish I had known then what I read today: "She serves-strictly by reservation and only for lunch" (from here) and "Diners should make reservations to Eve’s Garden at least one or two days ahead of schedule" (from here). So if you try it, try dialing 09209476264 before you go. And the address is ME-132 Upper Lamtang, Brgy. Puguis La Trinidad, Benguet. Beware, though: This may not be 100% veg, or even offer a veg option; the second article says "The set menu includes...a choice of chicken, beef or seafood." But every article mentions that Eve grows "eleven [or thirteen] kinds of lettuce." So it's gotta be worth a shot.

After all that, we defaulted to mall food, if I remember correctly. It was Don Henrico's Pizza in SM Baguio, I think. Then we did a little malling. Lila and Adam (the hedonists) went for a massage, and I headed off to buy some books of Filipino folklore (and pick up our book from Kidlat Tahimik).

I was waiting in the Starbucks in the SM Baguio Mall for Lila and Adam to finish being pampered, when I met a character named "Baguio Bill" (not quite his real name) and his wife Mari-something. A retired American postal worker with a couple of ex-wives and a current very young Filipina wife, "Bill" fits the "older American, younger Pinay" stereotype a little better than Jim and Shanti, or Lila and me. If you don't know what I mean, I'm sorry, but I'll just have to stop here. To say too much more could be libelous. But Bob explained that he and his wife had recently had a fight; she had gone home to "the province," and had left him a message that she wouldn't come back until he gave her "one rose for every tear she cried..." I hope you get the picture...

And then...and then... BACK TO BLISS! Jim was out of town, but we saw Santosh again, and another Texas Instruments colleague, Waqar. Now, our friend Jim Ward commented on the above picture on Lila's Flickr site: "Truly a ROSE among several thorny looking vegetarians." And I just want to say: Thanks for the kind words, Jim. But I don't think Lila looks THAT thorny!

Adam and Lila got Bliss T-shirts (nothing in my size), and we got a little more time with Shanti than the night before. (That's her in white, between her daughter and Lila.) She's a devotee of Ananda Marga; Lila of Gaudiya Math. So as Jim and I talk Buddhism, they talk Hindu traditions, especially those well known in the Philippines. It's nice to be with like-minded people.

And then...ladies and gentlemen...give it up for the Bad Boy Bautista of Baguio...DIEGO! We had a chance to hang with him in the lobby of Iggy's for a while, where he announced--to our shock--that our rooms were our wedding present! No charge.

* * * * * * * *

The first time we met Diego, on that August 2005 trip, was quite an experience. We had dinner with Lila's best friend Cathy and her boyfriend Mike; then the girls headed off to a frat/sorority reunion, and Mike and I headed "home"--I to my room at Iggy's Inn. Now, the room had been arranged through Mike because Diego was his life-long friend. So at two a.m., when someone was pounding on my door and drunkenly yelling "Open up, man, it's Mike"--well, it was possible, but not likely. Mike had been so courteous...How could this be him?

I opened the door, and there stood Diego. "Aw, sorry man, I'm not Mike. I'm Diego. You James? Come on, man, let's go get laid!" "I can't do that," I reply, "my girlfriend is here." He tries to push past me: "Where?" "Well, not HERE here, but you know, around." "Aw, come on man..." and so on.

Cut to the next morning. A very contrite (and somewhat hung over) Diego offers to show us around. We saw quite a few of Baguio's sites in his sporty car, had a drink at the country club during a major storm (where we met Diego's old pal, whose family owns the oldest distillery in the Philippines), had a glass of wine at The Manor at Camp John Hay (a former US Air Force "R 'n' R" location)...you know, slummin' with a prince. As far as we could tell, his largesse was penance for his bad behavior the night before. Or maybe not.

* * * * * * * *

Back to the honeymoon: So we hung for a while with Diego, pre-packed, and rested up for the next day's bus trip.

See a list of all of Lila's photo sets on Flickr from this trip down below

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Friday,
May 4

And Down We Go Again
Back to the flatlands of Manila
(A note on links for those in China)

A relatively uneventful day. "Baguio Bill" had told us that there was a slightly faster, more comfortable, and more expensive bus back to Manila. We did it, and it was worth it.

That night (it could have been the next night, but I'll tell it here) we were walking home from Cafe Havana near our pensionne when we ran into a fellow Angeleno who had been a colleague at my school in Shenzhen. He told us a harrowing yet oddly-humorous story: The night he arrived in Manila, he took a cab from the airport to a long-haul bus station, where three guys with knives held him up. "But they were so nice!" he marveled. It seems they took his pesos, but left him his passport, airplane ticket, credit cards, and other currencies! They just wanted the easily-traded local money. Lucky for him. So he was in Manila an extra night before taking his bus down south.

And that was that day.

See a list of all of Lila's photo sets on Flickr from this trip down below

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Saturday,
May 5

Wedding Party II
Meet the Family
(A note on links for those in China)

Another beautiful, hot day in Manila!

Lila gathered her family and friends at Greens, one of her favorite pure veg places (and fast becoming one of mine), in Quezon City. When our friend Jim Ward left Baguio Thursday morning, one of his targets we Greens! That guy: We cross paths with him at ALL the great veg places!

The lady in the purple shirt two places to Lila's left (as you look at her) is Lila's father's mother; the one in a sort of red paisley immediately to her right is her mother's mother. (There's a shot of the three together in Lila's online album; I call it "Lila and her Lolas" ["lola" is Pilipino for "grandmother"]). The album, actually, is worth a look; it says more than any description I can make. To see her surrounded by so many people who love her, and whom she loves, was very touching, from the "god-kids" to the former co-workers to the e-x-t-e-n-d-e-d family.

This shot came at a very funny moment: Lila's dad is just a few years older than me, but I acted like the callow newlywed and asked him: "Well, any advice, DAD?" Somewhat embarrassed, he had just mumbled "Nothing..." and we had started cracking up when the photo was taken. He's a really nice guy, and I hope we can sing karaoke together someday (many a Filipino's passion).

After the party, we had an appointment with a really great couple, Benc and Data. They run a web-building company, and we were considering engaging them to do some work for us. I had read Benc's blog, and found we had much in common; in fact, Jim Ward (there he is again) said he had sat in a Zen group with Benc (pronounced "Ben C," like bensey). By the way, how does a woman named Data end up in web building? Her full name is "DAphne TAtiana"--so Data is a clever observation of existing conditions. Anyway, after we got back to China, we got a quotation from them. It was very lenient, and we are definitely going with them.

I don't remember what we ate that night...it's all a blur...

See a list of all of Lila's photo sets on Flickr from this trip down below

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Sunday,
May 6

Two Pilgrimages
In which one spouse visits a historical site, and the other hits a mega-mall
(A note on links for those in China)

Once again, hot as hell, not a fit day out for man nor beast. But I had a mission, and would not be dissuaded.


The effigy stands in the space where Dr. Rizal was incarcerated;
the steps indicate the path to the execution ground.

I have come to admire "The Great Malay," Dr. Jose Rizal, the Philippines' greatest national hero. I am slowly reading his works; I have read one print biography and one online, and several biographical articles; and I have walked the route from his place of incarceration to his place of execution, where the Spanish authorities--on charges of insurrection--took his life on the morning of December 30, 1896. He is fascinating, multi-talented and multi-faceted. An unchallenged national hero for over a century, and yet riddled with ambiguities. There are even messianic sects, such as the Rizalistas, who believe he will come again to save the Philippines in her hour of greatest need.


"borrowed" from here

Anyway, in my research I had learned that the monument in what is now Rizal Park, near his execution site, was not his original resting place. In fact, the Spaniards had spirited his body away and buried it in secret to prevent a cult of martyr-worship. But friends of the family discovered the location: formerly a cemetery, these days known as Paco Park. They paid a worker to mark the grave with Dr. Jose Protasio Rizal's initials in reverse, as seen above. (There's an interesting account of a "local" man helping some Spanish researchers locate the park here and here.)

The Paco area adjoins Malate, so we set off on foot. Soon, however, my companions declared "this is ridiculous" and we hailed a cab. (I didn't argue with them.)


Curved walls


St. Pancratius Chapel

The park itself is beautiful, atmospheric. The curved walls encrusted with old crypts give an odd, comforting feeling; and the round Chapel of St. Pancratius is like the jewel in the lotus.


The modern memorial

The (alleged) former site of Dr. Rizal's burial is well-marked. After just hanging around and soaking up atmosphere for a while, we headed back to the pensionne to pick up our bags. Having done James' "yang" it was time to do Lila's "yin" (Adam doesn't count, since it wasn't his honeymoon): We headed for the largest mall in the country, and the 7th-largest in the world: SM Mall of Asia.

Lila had remembered seeing a veg restaurant there, but we couldn't find it. We did, however, find a Mexicali, and sat down with Lila's old friend Beng to eat our last meal in the Philippines. After we ate, the "kids" went off shopping while the old man sat and read; then it was off to the airport and the flight to Hong Kong, where, as mentioned above, we registered for those Frequent Flyer cards and noted the Burger King in the arrival hall.

But the festivities STILL weren't over...

See a list of all of Lila's photo sets on Flickr from this trip down below

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Photo Albums


See all of Lila's Baguio pics

See her pics out the bus window

See all her pics of our second wedding party

See her pics of our last day: Paco Park and SM Mall of Asia


 


Saturday,
May 12

Party #3
We just couldn't stop...
(A note on links for those in China)

After returning to Shenzhen (and a week of work), we declared a picnic at Lotus Hill Park. Quite a few friends came, and several "climbed the mountain" (I didn't); you can see Lila in front of the statue of Deng Xiao Ping, "the father of Shenzhen," at the top. (I assume by the angle that Jesse took this photo with Lila's camera?)

Later, we went to Focaccino, one of our favorite places, and the party grew. The weather was just right, the conversation was good; the tiramisu amazing as usual; some nights are just magic, you know?

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Wednesday,
May 16

Off to Yangzhou
How I got my New Job
(A note on links for those in China)

This story starts a couple of years ago. At that time, my friend Gary (owner of Moondance, the bar where I used to hang out) asked me to teach a handful of Chinese businessmen. I gladly agreed.

One of them, Wang Fu Qing, was a practicing Buddhist and has since become a good Dharma Friend. In April of 2005, he took me on a tour of the Shaoguan area, including Bie Chuan Chan Temple in Dan Xia Shan Scenic Area (see pictures; I wrote quite a bit about the trip last July--with some rather surprising pictures). 

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Here you can see Mr. Wang, the Abbot of the temple, and our friend, the monk Luohan. On this same trip, we visited Nanhua Temple, where I was fortunate to venerate the effigy of Huineng, the Sixth Patriarch of Chan (Zen).

My friendship with Mr. Wang continued to grow, and he he introduced me to another Dharma Friend, Wu Xian Shou. Mr. Wu and Mr. Wang grew up in the same small town in Fujian Province. Both came to Shenzhen and have done very well for themselves: Mr. Wang is a venture capitalist, and Mr. Wu a government officer. Both have been extremely generous to me. They took Lila and me to a temple under construction in Guangzhou, where we stayed in a beautiful mountain resort. They have also hosted numerous dinners at Summer Tea House, the best Buddhist restaurant in Shenzhen. But Mr. Wu's greatest gift was yet to come.

Last summer, through Mr. Wu's kindness, I was asked to teach at a temple in Fujian. I have written extensively about that experience, starting here. And accompanying me on that trip as translator and general go-between was Mr. Wu's son Diego, who had just graduated from Shenzhen Foreign Languages Middle School.


"Diego" (Wu Zhan) with his mother and father

I learned a lot on that trip, as my journal of last July shows. But it was also a summer of discovery for Diego. After our time together, the monk Dun Chao from Diego's hometown joined with another monk from Hong Kong, Venerable Hin Hong, to take a tour "In the Footsteps of Huineng," the Sixth Patriarch mentioned above. (Oh! How I'd love to take such a tour!) The trip was comprised of the two monks and a group of college-age students from both Hong Kong and the mainland. For a few days, the students lived a monastic lifestyle in a temple. This had a profound effect on Diego, and at the end of the summer he declared to me that he was now "a Buddhist." Since then he has been very active in philanthropic projects, especially raising money to send kids from his hometown to college. A really amazing young man.


Diego with Venerable Dun Chao

In September of last year, this amazing young man asked me to meet the monk Hin Hung. He's a fascinating man: Founding Fellow of the Centre for Buddhist Studies at Hong Kong University, on the board of the Hong Kong Buddhist Association, runs his own meditation center-- a real go-getter.  That's not surprising, considering that he was once a stock trader married to a TV star. By mutual consent, they got divorced; he became a monk, she a nun. (He was profiled in May 2007 in the South China Morning Post, available here.)


From the SCMP article 

So on September 30, 2006, I met Venerable Hin Hung (衍空, pinyin Yan Kong), and everything changed.  After the usual question,  "What do you do?" he hit me with an instant proposal: To create a program for monks in the Mainland to learn English. After some give-and-take over the next few months, including a meeting with the formidable Venerable Jing Yin (凈因) (Yangzhou native, Director of the CBS at HKU, and board member of the Jianzhen Academy), May 16 found me on an airplane flying to Yangzhou for my first taste of my new job.

The occasion of my arrival was a Buddhist Education Forum to be held at a new Library. Let's examine three institutions as a way of describing  my new job.


Main Gate of Da Ming Temple

Da Ming Temple (大明寺): This temple in Yangzhou is said to date back to 457. It's heyday, however (as with many Chinese temples) was during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The temple was home to Jianzhen (鉴真) , a masterful monk who was invited to Japan to spread Buddhism. A nice piece about him and the temple is here; a longer piece about him is here. (Those in China, read about links below.) Also from Yangzhou is Master Xing Yun (星云, Hsing Yun) of  Fo Guang Shan in Taiwan. I was fortunate to study at the university he founded in Los Angeles, and work for a brief time at the temple in Hacienda Heights.


Current (temporary) home of the Jianzhen Academy on Da Ming Temple grounds 

Jianzhen Academy: In honor of Masters Jianzhen and Xing Yun, Daming Temple decided to build a Buddhist academy to train monks to go abroad. According to a press release, Xu Yiming, Chairman of local Communist Party, said: "Jianzhen College , a higher education institution sponsored by Jiangsu Provincial Religious Association, is one of the key religious and cultural project[s]...[T]he college should make efforts to cultivate senior-rank talents for international exchanges and should shape its own characteristics of training and education."


Jianzhen Library looms in the rear; the buildings on either side are the future home of the  Jianzhen Academy

Jianzhen Library: In a chicken-and-egg development, Master Xing Yun is building a major Buddhist library on the Academy grounds. Another press release informs us: "The new library located at the Daming Temple is to be equipped with 100,000 volumes of books, a multimedia classroom and seven classrooms with slide projectors. It is expected that in 10 or 20 years of time, the library, through collecting Buddhism literature, will become the world center of information on Buddhism."

So, as you can see, I have become associated with a fledgling enterprise with high hopes. The fact that Fo Guang Shan has endowed the library with 50 million yuan (about 6.25 million U.S. dollars) leads me to believe that the dream is not too far-fetched.

Tying it all together is this statement in the Buddhist Education Forum brochure:

Today, the newly constructed Qiling Pagoda [at Da Ming Temple] has already reclaimed its place as a landmark of Yangzhou City; ... the newly opened Jianzhen Buddhist University has made its mark as a center for the development and training of international talent for the Chinese Sangha; and Jianzhen Library shall become a nucleus for the development of Buddhism in a modern social context.

(Note to Chinese language buffs: There is some disagreement about what to call the school in English. The Chinese name is "jian zhen xue yuan" (真学院). My boss calls it "Jianzhen Academy," which I think is close to the meaning of 学院. "College" would be OK too. But many are calling it a university, which in fact, aside from all linguistic considerations, it most certainly is not.)

So what, exactly, is the job? I am to be Dean of Cross-Cultural Studies at Jianzhen (Buddhist) Academy. I will design and implement a program for the monks that will include:

  • Oral English

  • Buddhism in English

  • Cultural Literacy

  • Western-style study skills


Two students from the first year of the Jianzhen Academy

The monks will spend about 60% of their study time under my program; the rest of their time will involve studies of Buddhist teachings and culture in Chinese; Classical Chinese; Chinese history; and so on.

The time they spend in Cross-Cultural Studies is intended to prepare them for three things:

  • Further study abroad. Hence they need English, Cultural Literacy (knowing what every western high-schooler knows), and Western-style study skills.

  • Teaching of Buddhism abroad. Oral English and Buddhism in English will be useful for this.

  • Teaching of Buddhism to foreigners in China, using the same skills as teaching of Buddhism abroad.

Many of you have written to ask: "You just got married and you're moving to a temple?!" Yes. But there's no problem in our marriage. In fact, we got married when we did partly because I knew this job was coming, and I wanted to "pin her down" before I left town (as stated above). And the job pays very well (better than I ever got in the states), so part of the plan is to save up for a home in the Philippines.

Besides, I have ample holidays. I'm home in Shenzhen as I write this (August 2007); I'll get the usual month or so at Chinese New Year, and a week for the Oct. 1 and May 1 holidays, as well as over a month for summer break. And I'll fly home once or twice a month to see my sweetie. (Because she works in another city, I only see her on weekends now anyway. So if I come home once a month, I'm cutting down from eight days a month to two, not thirty to two!)

There's so much more to say. In another post, I'll tell you about my May trip. And then there's the two weeks I spent in Yangzhou in July. Stay tuned. 

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Links 


For those in China:  Many of these links, including Flickr and Wikipedia, are often blocked in China. I  recommend that you follow this procedure:

  1. Open the link the usual way. If you can see the page, great. If not, go to step 2.
  2. Copy the address in the address window
  3. Go to this page and paste the link into the window halfway down the page, where it currently says "http://www.myspace.com"

Notes:

  • You're welcome to use any proxy you like; however, this is the only one I've found that currently allows us to see pictures on Flickr
  • You may have to disable any pop-up blocker you have installed; the ads are annoying, but that's the price you pay
  • Everything changes: If you try this technique and it doesn't work, write to me using the link below, and I'll send you more current information

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