Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Prison Job--a side-step in a direction.

I now work in a state's highest maximum security setting among people who have been incarcerated for socially unacceptable acts. It's very different from the mental health and recovery centers where I've worked before. But, the clients are still just people.

Like always, I just help the people get what they need, in this case, to live out their lives in a secure, safe setting, for the public and themselves. I've faced people, ideas, and situations that I needed to face.

Eye to eye with another person who committed some of the most inhumane acts, we're still people. They might need to be loud, use horrible language, threats and react in other ways rarely seen on the street. But, so far, I haven't found it necessary to do so.

Neither their judgment nor punishment are part of my job description.

What would you do for a cup of coffee, a burrito?

Since I came to work with criminals, whose lives will be lived out behind walls, I've been thinking a lot more about the freedoms I take for granted.

There have been times when I was short on cash, the worst was when I'd plan for a cup of coffee each month, then plan when and where it would be, whether I'd be alone or with someone. Now, I live large--I can drink coffee any day, anywhere.

And as far as fast food or home cooked meals go, I can have either. For instance, I have the choices to make a burrito, or buy one.

The men I work with are willing to trade a world of favors for bootlegged meager ingredients, put two wires into a socket risking their lives, to warm a cup of water, or coffee, if they're very lucky.

It's hard to know that a burrito so easily purchased by a lucky guy like me, has by inmates to be cooked by "secretly" ironing them between layers of state issued khaki pants.

True, I didn't put them in prison. But, it's also true, that my life isn't over yet, and I've done plenty to deserve a worse life than the one I've got.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Doing the "next right thing"

This summer, a woman described what she'd do if she could become sober. She said the standard line, "I'll do the next right thing." We who have some sobriety use that line a lot, "Just do the next right thing."

I learn from people like her. I questioned myself about the way I was spending my days. What was I doing with my own time...was it really useful to anyone? Was it the next right thing?

Of course, I fulfilled the general expectations of my employer. I shuffled papers around, spoke, wrote, traveled a lot, blessed projects, signed papers so obscure projects could be financed. Somewhere my name is folded into dark boxes of records that no one would ever need to read. I also made equally forgettable charts, goals and mission statements and multimedia silliness...just standard administrivia and politics. My days seemed just part of a life sketch, but not a real life, not MY next right thing.

So, I listed people I wanted to spend time with and places of importance for me to be. To fit my calendar, I found that my job was simply in the way. So, I dispensed with that.

I said goodbye to Liesel who moved to Kansas City, and to Molly who moved to Switzerland. Then I left town for a while. First, I needed most to be at my parent's house. Later, Kausik and I needed to see his home and family in India. Over the past few months, I've enjoyed quiet time with good people, seen great landscapes, and some difficult lifestyles.

I've read books. I dug the potatoes. I've been thinking and drawing sketches of succession growth---(you know the scruffy plants that grow after people get out of the way, like weeds, brush, sprouts-- I like that stuff) I've pondered what could be the most likely first growth between those cracks in the road, if someone didn't fill them with tar--it interests me tremendously.

I don't know what I will do next, but there so many "next right things" I will not need to worry over it for long.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Kausik alert

Kausik is probably already on his way to the Kolkata airport and will arrive in Lincoln on Oct 20.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Farm Crops

Jute or India hemp grows tall stems, is cut,
submerged to loosen outer fibers, which are
stripped and bundled for sale as a fiber.
The drying shocks are the stripped stems,
for use as cooking fuel.

Kausik's Cousins

Friday, September 12, 2008

K's Grandparent's farm

Kausik's mother took us to her parents farm.
We were so at-ease there. Phoning from train.

Green jute stems standing
beside the low growing rice.

Kausik picking from trellised vines.
These vegetables are individually
hand pollinated at 5 am. Male flowers
are picked, female flowers fertilized.
See cauliflower and rice in background.

The trees are bananas, coconuts and other palms,
mangos, grapefruit, papayas.

Monkeys were stealing the citrus from the trees
at the right.

sorting bitter gourds for home, sale
House is woven, sitting on clay foundation.
Center area swept clean, very nice space.

From the roof of two uncles' house,
I look down at the house and cooking area of another.
Jute stems feed fire under cooking pots.

Rooftop "woodpile" of soft fuels.
Jute stems, palm leaves, coconut hulls,
nothing wasted. Fuels are fed into
earthen pits, for cooking.
To right of cousins see tv dish.
Grandpa has a flatscreen!

Architecture, ancient (Agra), Delhi, to modern (Kolkata)

Kausik, cousin brother Raja

Concrete building, bamboo scaffold, taxi.

Kausik's sister and her children


Trisha and Kakoli (Kausik's sister)

new shirt/ tailor made

Getting measured for a shirt. Uma, Kausik's friend, gave fabric to get a shirt made at a tailor's shop. It looks and feels great-- 80 cents well spent.

Kausik in Botanical Garden

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

semi abstract favorites

A huge sundial/planetary sculpture used for astrology॥all stone is hand cut and marked to the millimeter or so, for accurate planetary measurements (Delhi)।

Orange palm fruit which grows in Kausik's yard, called betelnut, drying for use in ceremonies and with leaf are held in mouth ॥ (I don't quite know what I'm talking about here), but they're on the roof, where K's room is and looked nice against the blue house. (in Kolkata--I'd write Calcutta, but that's not the name of the city.)

The X-shaped images are jute stems, standing like corn shocks after the outer layers are removed to make rope (near Kolkata)। The stems will be fuel

Around town

This is a street, with only inches between buses, trucks, taxis, autorickshaws, and manpowered rickshaws, people intermingling by bike, motorbike, workmen with carts, sellers with pushcarts, and feral dogs.

The train is overfull, with riders hanging on in the doorways. This is a car reserved for women.

Tuneer is being picked up by dad Partha from school, by rickshaw.

A railway crossing.

The street shops are small from American dining table sized to room sized, see the lumber store (they make boards to order...you choose the tree).



Each morning, Kausik's father walks to the market for the days food. Kausik is in front of his home, following his father to the market. This is their street.

At the market, one fishmonger.

All are freshly picked, caught, etc that day.

How fast can you butcher a chicken?

Chicken and fish are prepared immediately on order...I timed one man who averaged processing chicken, from standing live, to butchered, skinned, cut to suit the customer, bagged and sold--all in 80 seconds.

When the heart is still beating after the sale is complete and the exact change is returned, that's FRESH!

Same with fish...you choose the fish you want, and it's prepared for you, as you please. I thought customer service was stunning.

Potatoes cost one quarter cent per pound. Yes, 4 lb/ 1 cent.

the kids and Kausik, at his home, Kolkata

The kids are glued to a tv show about Indian epics. Imitating one hero, Tuneer is especially happy when he puts a small rope "tail" in his waistband and turns into the Monkey God, Hanuman (A god was angry at Hanuman, so ordered that Hanuman's tail be lighted. Hanuman lengthened his tail, then escaped and set fire to large parts of Lanka.)

Tuneer, as Hanuman, can be very wild around the house, like any monkey would, with his tail on fire.

But sometimes, he wears a straw hat, straddles the foot of the bed, puts the rope around the bedpost and rides this "horse".

Trisha is quieter, watching the very dramatic regular tv show. Also likes Indian Idol.

Trisha and Tuneer (neice, nephew) at Das home

Tuneer (nephew) helps hang clothes

Train: Delhi to Kolkata

Train took 17 hours to Kolkata from Delhi. Don't take this one. It was far below the standard of the Indian Railways normal service. Everywhere else we went, the service was great. Not here.