I’m here for other children.
I’m here because I care.
I’m here because children everywhere are suffering and because forty thousand people die each day from hunger.
I’m here because those people are mostly children.
We have got to understand that the poor are all around us and we are ignoring them.
We have got to understand that these deaths are preventable.
We have got to understand that people in third world countries think and care and smile and cry just like us.
We have got to understand that they dream our dreams and we dream theirs.
We have got to understand that they are us. We are them.
My dream is to stop hunger by the year 2000.
My dream is to give the poor a chance.
My dream is to save the 40,000 people who die each day.
My dream can and will come true if we all look into the future and see the light that shines there.
If we ignore hunger, that light will go out.
If we all help and work together, it will grow and burn free with the potential of tomorrow.
—Rachel Corrie, aged 10, 1990, 5th grade press conference on world hunger
From my journal while on the road, 6 weeks in October and November 2008, Alaska to California and back to Portland Oregon, then home to Cambridge Massachusetts—with 3 new slide shows about Palestine/Israel, “My Trip to Gaza,”, “Bethlehem the Holy,” and “The Hydropolitics of Israel-Palestine.” In early December and again in February 2009 I’ll be touring with these and other shows in the southeast section of the US. You can find more information here.
Juneau Alaska, part 6 (Tenakee Springs):
These dreams, one very telling about women relations: I was traveling with a dear woman friend, a stand-in for M or F, not looking like either but my feelings the same, and one or two other men. We had stopped for the night in some sort of dull motel. One man and my female cohort were clearly cavorting, they’d agreed to bed down together. I was jealous, found another spot to sleep. While doing this I noticed my hair was ragged, I’d thought to bring along manual clippers, so sleepily I tried to cut my hair—while in bed, making a mess.
The man abruptly decided to leave even tho the hour was late, something like 1 am. He was driving back to his home in a huff. Their relationship was off. I was somewhat relieved, tho still suspicious: is this the sort of woman I wish to be aligned with?
Magically another woman appeared, about the same age, young, attractive, the scene had changed. No longer in the motel we took a walk, and surprising me she began running. I tried to keep up.
And that was a good portion of my dream night, in a 3-room cabin in Tenakee Springs, Alaska, on Chichagof Island. Elaine and Bob rented the cabin, I don’t know the price, Elaine is treating me. It is long, built on stilts, extending over the water. Each room is about 4 meters wide, same dimension long, not winterized. The rooms are paneled with cheap brown fake wood. Floors are similar to linoleum. Kitchen is first, my room second, Bob and Elaine’s room third, and I suppose we could count the rude dark cold back room or shed as a 4th rm. It houses the toilet. Unlike some toilets that dump directly into the drink this one flushes. Most likely the remains end up, raw, also in the ocean.
A porch extends along one side; I peed from it during the night, avoiding either walking thru B-E’s room or walking along the porch and entering the shed for the toilet. A small modern oil stove provides heat. Kitchen sports a microwave, large fridge, small toaster, tiny sink, and enough kitchen gear to make life livable for short periods.
The village itself—in Alaska it’s known a city, a 3rd order city, apparently all settlements are called cities, despite the size—extends along the shore, one narrow road, no cars, lots of 4 wheelers, a few golf carts. There is no wireless Internet, but like in some parts of the world, it’s coming. Walking last night around 9 pm to survey the night scene, I noticed that about 1 in every 10 dwellings had lights burning. Suggesting: few people live here. It is mostly a summer village. [I learned later that people minimize their use of electricity because of the cost—all fuel has to be shipped in.]
The buildings range from those even ruder and cruder than ours, some abandoned and tilting, to elegant virtual palaces high up on stilts or hills. One lodge graces the village, along with a helicopter pad, ferry dock (2 ferries per week, we return in 3 days), Blue Moon café (sporadically open, more about this place later), a bakery and café open only during the summer, general store open a few days weekly in this season, new beautiful school up the hill, serving about 8 students (more about this also), an oil farm also up the hill (in fact, other than the shore, most of this island seems a huge hill or small mountain), a community center-“city” hall combo where I’ll give a slide show tonight about Bethlehem—and arguably the most important feature in Tenakee Springs, the hot springs.
It sits beside the dock, enclosed in a small wooden 2-room building. First room is for changing or more precisely disrobing since clothing is not allowed in the spring’s room. The 2nd room is enveloped in vapor: the springs, a narrow cleft in the rock thru which hot water oozes. Not much water, perhaps about 3 liters per minute, but it flows, from a time long ago perhaps predating Indian use of this spring. Whites have added a 1/3-meter high concrete wall and a series of about 3 steps for those of us who might wish to recline or sit in the soothing, slightly sulfurous liquidy warmth. I sat alone. I imagined the springs of Budapest, in the winter, shared with hundreds including my fellow Auschwitz to Hiroshima pilgrims.
I imagined similar baths in California with Louise, including the spectacular Harbin Hot Springs with its myriad young beautiful shapely naked women (and men) that aroused me almost to the breaking point, and the Boston College sauna with Rob, and the Polish sauna or steam bath with pilgrims, or the Chicago YMCA’s steam room where I first enjoyed hot air and water.
Males bathe separately from females, unlike Harbin, reducing the excitement, adding to the serenity.
I have no idea about the plumbing, whether the flowing waters are direct emanations from the underworld, so called fossil or ancient water, or water draining down to hot regions and bubbling up. I will try to learn about this when I have time.
Trying to photograph all this is a challenge. I doubt I’ll do much. I tried from the ferry; I’ll attempt the springs, guessing that the vapor will ruin photos. I’ll see what develops, if anything. On the ferry, with my beloved wide angle lens, I photographed extensively, exploring the world of wide on this floating platform, noting wave patterns, varying skies, interactions with horizon, the ship itself, its bulbous front wall.
The water story: it comes from wells that each household drills, mildly sulfurous, some springs (potable?), no community piping, nor sewage system, effluent either dropped thru a hole in the out house, or flushed thru a pipe into at least the low tidal area, to be washed away by the tidal cleanser. Very simple, how sustainable I’m not sure, especially if the population swells.
Ah yes, the Blue Moon café. Thinking I might down a hot cup of tea after lunch, I wandered into the café. 3 men and 1 Native woman sat there staring at me as I entered. The rotund dopey looking guy near the door asked me how I was: “cold and wet,” I answered, honestly. He guffawed. “What else is new?” he laughed. And then made some remark about me that elicited more laughter from all. I’d been carrying an umbrella, despite Elaine’s warning that real Alaskans don’t use umbrellas.
Not sure where to sit or who to order from—the place was small, jammed with junk, looked decrepit—the woman finally said, “What can I get you?”
—How about hot tea?
—Sorry, we don’t have any hot water.
No hot water, I thought, what sort of café is this?
—Well then, I exclaimed, I guess I’m going.
—You know, I said, with some bitterness which I later regretted, aiming the barb at the fat fellow by the door, we’d laugh at you too in Cambridge.
—October 10, 2008, Friday, in a cabin in Tenakee Springs, with E-B
In a dream I’m with a black activist who knows the region. We’re in his car, with his wife, entering a metro area. I ask where are we? Darfur, he answers. He and I are racing thru the streets, he doing some ritual with food and flowers, offering them to the earth, I have no idea what he is doing, it is some native tradition. We run, both wearing slippers or sandals, his stay on his feet, mine continually slip off.
The 2 shows yesterday in Tenakee—both Bethlehem the Holy, one at the school, the other to the community—went reasonably well, given how young the school kids are. The shortened version, some 40 min, did not seem to bore the kids, all 6 of them, grades 2 thru 9 (several of the olders were absent). One boy in particular, who might have been the problem boy their teacher, Ann, told me about, who might need to be removed from the room if his interest lagged, to draw or engage in some other activity, asked very intelligent questions. He noticed much in the photos that I’d missed, like the cat in the Nabi Musa moon photo. He also told us later when we’d gotten to the topic of World War 2 that some of it occurred around here, and he knew the exact sites—tunnels and fortifications. This amazed others.
I began with brainstorming, words such as Israel and immigrant, already on the board from previous lessons, adding Palestine, Jesus, maybe refugee. I could also have dealt with Jew, Arab, wall, and settlement. Then the show in which I emphasized more personal stories than I’d had in my preview showing, believing that the high school and father talks about dead daughter scenes would be most riveting.
A fairly long, fairly involved, wide-ranging discussion later. I enjoyed this thoroughly, felt on the ball and mark, at my best, appreciative of the opportunity.
The evening show, to the same number of folks, more than I’d expected, fewer than the fellow who helped me set up, Elk expected—he and his wife Maeve thought maybe the storm had stopped some people. “Storm? “I asked, “what storm? “Heavy rains, strong winds, some people living in Tenakee come by boat from their far-flung homes.
The audience, compared with the school group, felt somewhat dead, unresponsive, bored. I used the longer version, incorporating all the discoveries I’d made editing the shorter. I must claim that the sound, relative to what I’ve achieved before, is spectacular. At the last moment I found a way to hook into a professional sound system in the hall, clear sound booming from the two massive speakers at the back of the room. No one commented on the quality of the sound.
To run sound over picture sets I now merge images on one slide, jockey them into position, select animations, try them out, hope they work. From time to time the sound won’t run at all. To rectify this I import one sound file to one slide, and presto, the entire sound track is back. I have no idea why this happens, a bug perhaps in the software, Apple’s Keynote.
The frame of coming to Bethlehem works, I’m convinced. In my intro I mentioned the theme, asked them to imagine the various ways one might come to Bethlehem. Elk said god, close I said. Meave said walk, I congratulated her, right on. She also said drive, fly, etc. My response was You’d be surprised that this might not be as possible as you’d expect.
Elaine—others as well?—were surprised by the Christian exodus info. I even heard one or two gasps when this info rolled out. She thought the non-violent resistance part was especially intriguing. B-E both felt I could omit my remarks about not believing aspects of the Christian tale, like the divinity of Christ, or whether the angels actually appeared in the fields. I need to struggle with this aspect.
Elk came up to me later and said, with an earnest expression, “If I were to make one comment on your show”—I anticipated something like, shorten it—he said, “study about Christ. If you knew Christ as I do you would express no doubts whatsoever. He is the Son of God, he is your savior. You’d have a much more powerful show.”
I’d noticed him looking grim during the show, thinking at first he was bored and sleepy. Luckily he’d volunteered to read the texts, along with Elaine, so I could wake him up by calling on him for specific readings. He suggests an important quality of this show, the Christness of it. E felt there were some conservative Christians in the audience, such as the woman editing the Juneau Catholic parish’s newsletter, and her husband who is an official of the parish. Another couple had visited the region and seemed very attentive to the Christ theme.
At the last minute, seeing we had more than 2 in the audience, I put out a bowl for collection. And then at the end of the discussion I mentioned the option of contributions. Zero. Not a penny. Is this a sign of their feeling concerning the show, or simply the timing and happenstance nature of the request?
So, it’s a show in evolution, as Anna Deavere Smith said about the play, Let Me Down Easy, in evolution. I look forward to more improvement.
Bob & Elaine Schroeder, Skip Schiel
Today I can relax. Another hot bath this morning before it closes to males at 9 am, saunter up and down the road with my camera, even in the windy rain, read, eat, hang with sis and bro in law, maybe hook into internet at the community center.
I’d done this yesterday at the library, and found 2 messages from M. Curious messages, surprising messages. She wrote me about her house woes, that her upstairs neighbors, young men, are loud: parties, drinking, their dog. She’d informed me about some of this earlier, but now the problem is exacerbated. They are so loud at night she cannot sleep, had moved out to friends’ homes to do so. She wrote that she’s been communicating with her landlady who might be able to prod some action, even evict them. At one point M was ready to begin a search for a new home. Very troubling.
In the hot bath yesterday morning with Bob, another gent entered, a little more rotund than Bob and me, white bearded, unsmiling, friendly, knowledgeable. I queried him about the springs. Built during the depression, presumably by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression (the first Great Depression), replacing a wooden hut, not much flow, can be scooped out with a bucket. No parties or other festivities or rituals around the spring. Other springs potable. To drill effectively, one must hit a cleavage in the rock. Plenty of water, never dry. Clean. Some hot, some cold, all artesian. Perhaps all from the same source. No aquifer that he knows of. Hot spring is ancient water (how would he know?).
I invited him to the show, he came. Asked me about water justice in Israel-Palestine.
E suggested I take a year long break from my Palestine/Israel project, tackle another theme, maybe another aspect of social justice, maybe not requiring so much travel, just to gain perspective, and have another show to offer audiences. In part I can test the waters, see if when I’m turned down it’s because of the theme or something else. I like that idea. Here’s what I began thinking about:
Local youth violence, mostly black. The environment, maybe global warming and how the earth is changing. Indians lands, near and far, possibly a return to the Rosebud and Lakota reservations. Prisons. I feel the new theme should be something I can do relatively easily, not needing years of research and contact making. I have much invested in Israel-Palestine and do not intend to let this drift off.
Ah, what I’d most like to tackle is civility in the Low Countries and Scandinavia. However, imagine what this would entail in research, contacts, travel. Is there some smaller theme related to this larger theme?
Another thought: my relations with women. How would I deal with this photographically? And why would anyone care? How could I universalize it? Of course, write a story, fictionalize it. But then…
Or something with water. Or trees. Or public access.
I’ll let this simmer awhile, hope what cooks up will be appropriate.
—October 11, 2008, Saturday, in a cabin in Tenakee Springs, with E-B, during a storm
Ferry coming in