Thursday, January 10, 2013

Steve Jobs

It was a very short night due to a final long day of loading the 40' container. Geoff, Eunice, granddaughter Addison and I got in the car with 12 pieces of luggage and went to a hotel near the Orlando airport. It was midnight before body met mattress, and 3:30 when very reluctantly I peeled myself off again.

Geoff et all are headed to Palau via San Francisco, Honolulu and Guam. 

I'm on a US Air flight headed for Ontario California, and on to Hong Kong tomorrow with Jeri. 

I thought of Steve Jobs today on the flight. Had he been a cook, our airplane breakfast could've been so different. But instead, after eating, a row of us got out our iToys and all pretended it was duty that forced us to "work" for the rest of the trip.


Saturday, May 05, 2012

Diamond in the Rough

I've not been looking forward to this trip back from Hong Kong to LA.  I'm not sure why, unless it was the time spent living in Palau.  When we lived in Palau, we were somewhat trapped as far as airlines were concerned.  It was Continental or nothing.  And, for whatever reason, those flights were some of the most miserable of my existence.  From Koror to Guam was just a short flight, but one arrived there at 5:30 am or so, and that was after not sleeping the night before.  Then on to Hawaii, LA, Houston and wherever.  It was always crowded and miserable.  One item that made it more so was the always possibility of being upgraded to business one one of the legs of the journey.  It was always the shortest leg possible.  Then the rest of the time there was hope.  And if you have hope for upgrade in one hand and Bedoodoo in the other, guess which hand is full.
But on the way out this time from LA to Hong Kong, I had an Aisle seat and managed to keep my knees unfolded a few times and arrived in HK with an excitement and freshness of a college student.  But then when I was getting a seat assignment from Manila to HK to LAX, I got bulkhead from Manila and Exit row from HK.  I looked forward to Bulkhead and dreaded Exit Row.  Had that backwards.
The bulkhead was actually appropriate for persona dwarfoma.  I couldn't even put my feet under the seat in front of me.  It would have been fine for knees if I had just ended there.  And as for Exit row, it was Window and wide body type exit row, meaning that the door in front of me would have built into it the Queen Elizabeth II size life raft and again there would be no place for my legs.  
When I got to the Airport in Hong Kong, I asked to move.  They said there was only one empty seat on the plane, and it was a center seat.  I gave up.
At boarding time, I sat behind the QEII door and waited for the person who would no doubt be more than ample and who would mould me into my 13-hour position when they arrived.  The gentleman of the Aisle seat had on head phones and didn't wish to be the beneficiary of my abundant knowledge and vast experience.  I waited.
Then the flight attendant came and knelt before the Aisle occupier.  She introduced herself told him how happy she was to be able to serve him.  She assured him that she had followed his request and had blocked the seat between us from being taken by anyone, and that she and her fellow attendants would try to keep any noise down in this area.   I sat in wonder.  He explained to me that he is a Diamond Class member of Cathay Pacific, and can make such requests.  The result, at meal times the flight attended would come and ask if we had anything special we would like to eat or drink.
So as to avoid the obvious (treating him like a diamond and me like a lump of coal), my name was asked and I was addressed by name and given choices as if I were actually diamond, and not just in the same setting.  I will always wonder why they didn't play a fanfair of any sort and excort us amid applause of the onlooking passengers of lesser personage, to first class and tuck us into a comfort zone of which often dream.  But they didn't.
The captain has just announced that we have begun our descent into LA.  I can say, having watched a movie, the Iron Lady, some TV and slept and eaten, that the flight seemed short enough.  Even the baby across the Aisle was not allowed to cry during the night and I am well pleased and ready to see Ben and Bess at the Airport

Sunday, April 29, 2012


I went to 4 different churches this morning.  I am sure there were more to choose from, but I had no idea behind what walls or down which alleys in this very crowded part of Manila. I went first to a church at the Pasay Adventist Academy.  I think that it was actually one of the churches associated with the Pasay Adventist Church, but with services in Tagalog rather than English.  From there I went to the Pasay Adventist Church.  It was in English, but was so full, with standing room only.  So, I moved on to the Manila Adventist Medical Center Hospital Church.  I was unfortunate enough to make my entrance during the midst of the Lesson Study.  Teachers lost their followers as everyone seemed to turn to look at and wonder about me.  I asked what time the worship service started.  She (the hostess who had welcomed me) said at 9:00.  It was now 9:30.  So I asked if this was Sabbath School.  She stated that it was.  I asked if it was worship service.  She said it was.  I asked what time Sabbath School began, she said 9:00.  Then I asked when the next service was.  She said 9:00.  I told her I'd come back then.  She did require that I sign the guestbook before I left.  I then went to the college church.  There were about 6 people there.  Each seemed to be engaged in something other than Sabbath School.  I asked the person who greeted me, what time the Sabbath School began.  He said 9:00.  Wondering about time zones between the two buildings, I headed back to the Pasay Adventist Church. I kind of hovered until Sabbath School ended.  By now there must have been 200 people standing in the back.  I was among them, and when persons who had attended the early service began to take their leave, I found a good spot in the back with leg room and an excellent view. A gentleman named Eufe Tantia welcomed everyone to church.  I could listen to him speak all day long.  He had such a kind and professional manner.  His announcements were dignified and clear.  He read the names of visitors who were to stand.  My name, not having been registered, was not read.  For this I was thankful.  The name of a lady was read.  It was not a Filipino name, but sounded very much as if were a name from Africa.  A lady appearing to be from Africa stood.  But the kind man making the announcements was not looking to where she was standing.  Then I noticed that two other women, who were Filipino stood.  He looked at and welcomed them.  I realized that two blocks away at the Hospital church my name was being read, and that maybe there were persons who had stolen my identity and were standing to a warm welcome. The service was very worshipful.  A child named Princess Joy Hernandez had the children's story.  Her excellent English was exceeded only by her perfect inflection and poise as she told a flawless Children's story about Jesus calming the storm.  The music was most uplifting and then one Joel Mazo preached the morning sermon on the "Grace Generation" The theme of his sermon was the beatitudes.  He dwelt for a long time on those who hunger and thirst.  And at the close of the sermon, in this quiet, air-conditioned sanctuary full of reverent worshippers in the heart of the noisy city, we waited to leave, as we had been instructed during the time of announcements. When I left, I asked one of the deacons where I might find the fellowship lunch.  The bulletin stated that it would be at "the U-room classes 7, 8 & 9.  The deacon (I know that he was a deacon, they all wore matching lavender shirts with the distinctive cut of Filipino good attire), said that he didn't know, but it would be no doubt in the back.   In-the-back became somewhat of a challenge, as the building goes through the center of 3 blocks.  One can exit out the right and through the North Philippine Union Conference office complex, coming out on a street 2 blocks distant across the street from the Hospital.  Or, straight back through the Academy, coming out on yet another street, a very busy street, a block away.  I went for the Academy.  There I saw a young fellow with a walkie talkie.  Wrongly I assumed he was one assigned to help solve problems and guide wanderers.  I asked him where I might find the fellowship lunch.  This seemed to strike a responsive chord in him.  He said there was none, stood immediately and walked away.   I then saw a group of older women.  Of course, they would know.  I asked.  They told me to go to Classroom # 1.  They pointed at the door and I headed straight there.  When I opened the door, I found the young walkie talkie carrier standing there with a plate full of food.  He assured me I was in the wrong place and coming to the door, said in good English, which I had previously kindly decided he did not understand, to go to the Old People's Room.  I deduced by these instructions that I needed to find a mirror and get a look at why I was deemed unfeedable and old. I soon found a sign that looked like that of a restroom.  Sure enough.  It was marked CR (comfort room) and notice was posted at the door that it was closed. I returned to the sanctuary and found a woman sitting there.  I asked her where I might find U-rooms 7, 8 and 9.  She told me they were in the upstairs of the church.  I was to go out the side door and up stairs located there.  I began to salivate.  But just as I got to the side door, a man in a lavender shirt locked it.  I looked assertive.  He told me that all doors were being locked and that I should hurry to the last remaining open door, as the final moments were upon me. At last I found the stairs and made my way to the top.  There was a door... Locked. I did stop and ask several other persons who were eating some rather nice looking lunches where I might find the fellowship lunch.  None of them could give me any information. I have looked at the bulletin again.  It says that next week, May 5 - "Fellowship lunch at the U-room classes 10, 11 & 12".  I have my doubts. I decided to come back to the guest room and get some Pesos and find a place to get some lunch.  Near the building, I met Elder Rajagukguk from Indonesia.  He was just putting some serving dishes in the trunk of his car.  "Did you get lunch?" he queried.  I told him no.  He said, "Next time you must come to the Hospital Church.  We have a potluck there right after church."  I then met a young fellow I had never seen in my life.  "Douglas Martin?" he asked.  I answered in affirmative and astonishment.  He introduced himself as a Simanjuntak from Indonesia whose father I had known. I also think my name was read as a guest and head taken due note. He too told me that I had missed a good potluck.  I determined in my heart to keep close to the Indonesians on my next visit to the Philippines.  I passed the College group who had finished church now and were getting ready for lunch.  They had stacks of styrofoam lunch boxes, which I glanced at, but got some looks of warning from those standing guard.  I moved on to my room, grabbed pesos and headed down the street.  There were Adventists everywhere.  Half of the businesses were closed, but a number of persons just having finished church were entering one little place that advertised nourishment.  I followed.  For $2.50, I got 5 plastic bags filled with soupy foods and rice.  I took them back to my room which is Air Conditioned, and felt blessed, having hungered and thirsted and about to be filled. I will send the address of the hospital church to anyone interested.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday, June 13, 2008

Row 65

It wasn't what I would have asked for when I told the gate agent we wanted to sit together, Jeri and I. But it was what we got. There are 67 rows in the poor old airplane (movie watching was no temptation, as the screen reminded me of using a pin-hole camera to view an eclipse of the sun so as to prevent damage to my young eyes) and we were in row 65.

We had passed by our fellow country-men. It had taken a while, as they were trying to stow their treasures from the orient into the overhead compartments or "under the seat in front of you". We had passed the Japanese tourists who one can identify easily by the expensive cut of their cotton garments. There were all kinds of people that we had passed and now we were sitting in row 65. Around us were many dark-faced people, unsmiling and tattered. Finding a place for our abundance of carry-on bags was simple. None of the overhead compartments held anything. The flight attendant was in the midst of a struggle of some sort. She held boarding passes and was making an angry speech to them about sitting in their assigned seats. They looked at her, more curious than comprehending. She asked if there was no one there who spoke English. I thought it a strange question. She spoke English, and that wasn't helping much.

Then she began to choose wrongly-seated persons and would guide them by hand to the correct seat, but that didn't work either, because the correct seat would be occupied by another. They were cooperative, as cooperative as they could be under her barrage of instructions and frustration, and their lack of understanding any of it.

She began moving people to seats that they were not assigned to, and then back again to where they weren't assigned to. It was Northwest's worst. Finally she gave up. She really did. When the plane took off, all around us were seats reclined and tray tables down. Some stood up to look out the windows and watch this marvel, the ground disappearing beneath us, others were looking at the in-flight magazine and showing it excitedly to those behind or in front of them.. She said nothing, but chose to sit in her back corner of the plane looking anywhere other than at those for whom she was responsible.

I asked the young fellow across the aisle where he was from. He answered in very clear English, "we are refugees from Thailand. We are going to America. We are going to New York." Thailand is third base to lots of refugees heading for the rest of the world. But Thailand is not their home. So I asked again where his home country was. His answer, "we are refugees from Thailand. We are going to America. We are going to New York." I kept asking in different ways, trying to find out their origin, not really sure why, but trying none the less. And then he broke from his memorized script that he had been answering with each time. We are Karen people. His answer was excited and int he affirmative when I asked if they were from Burma.

They were all dressed warmly, these refugees from Thailand. The guy across the aisle, who sat with a very very short woman, who had trouble looking over the seat backs even when she stood up, wore a hooded sweat-shirt. Several others did as well. They were quiet all night as we flew, these refugees from Thailand, Even the two children who were in the group of about 20. made no sound during the flight. The flight attendant was not so. She came through and began to speak loudly to the mother of the one young girl. The girl was looking at a plastic utensil that had come on the meal tray. The Northwest employee seemed not to know that because these were deemed safe, they had replaced the usable cutlery. "Child, you are going to poke your eye out with that." The child understood no more than the adults around her of what had been said, so the flight attendant made a jabbing motion at her own eye to show the potential danger. I saw this as an interesting way to communicate, and hoped that the child could perceive this as a warning rather than instruction on how to use the object of the woman's illustration.

Another young fellow wore a woman's Christmas hat. It was white with holly and candy canes on it. He kept it on during the flight o keep his shorn head warm. His shoes were cheap canvas shoes. A tag, not with a price or famous brand name, but that simply said "size 7" was still attached to the left shoe. They gagged and retched during the long and very turbulent flight, these fellow travelers. And then about breakfast time, the fellow with the size 7 canvas shoes, took them off to have a look at his feet. They had perspired all night, maybe the only outlet for the heat that he had captured in his body by wearing a sweatshirt and christmas hat. I had wondered how long he would wear his christmas hat in New York. I had wondered a lot of things about these hill people from the jungles of Burma, going to live in New York. And now he was looking at his feet. They had perspired to the point that his callouses had become rather damp and white. This concerned him, his white feet. He showed those around him. The short woman found it quite enjoyable, his worry.

I turned and looked out the window. Landfall. I saw what I supposed to be the mountains of Northern California. I told the refugee who had memorized their places of origin and destination. He stood up and looked out the window. Then he sat down and began to rub his head and cry. He pulled the hood of his sweat shirt over his face and held his head in his hands. Those around him were looking out the window and tears reddened their eyes as well. When I asked for a picture of him and the short woman beside him, he told me they were one family. His mother beside him, and his brother sitting before him festooned with the candy canes sitting beside a man with round-framed glasses who was their father. I took their picture. They enjoyed looking at the results and thanked me. I was sorry that I couldn't give them a copy, just a look. And we landed.

We left the aircraft together, the Martins and the refugees. We got to the escalator together, and I saw for the first time such a large group of people who had never before been on moving stairs. They braced their feet like cats riding on a speed boat. We were in the middle of the group, and saw them cling to one another and then broad jump to safety when the stairs leveled out at the bottom before going into the floor. A woman from the INS was there. She smiled and welcomed them to the United States and they all walked behind her into a room whose signage suggested health screening.

We were in China last week, and Hong Kong. We landed in Tokyo today. We could live in China twenty years, or Japan or Indonesia, But we could never be Chinese, Japanese or Indonesians. But these people will be Americans. And I was proud of them and of the country that welcomed them.


Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Things One Might See in China

Yesterday evening Jeri and I went to China. She needed to go to the tailor and pick up her dress for Ben's wedding which will be in Charlotte, NC in May. We decided after the stop at the tailor to go and eat at an Indonesian Restaurant in Shenzhen before heading back to Hong Kong. This would be a maneuver, as it required a change in buses half way there. We rode the first bus, got off and waited for the second. Nearby, on the crowded sidewalk stood a man selling puffed rice and puffed wheat. We had stepped out into the street so that we would not be easy prey to pick pockets which roam the sidewalks at leisure and look for victims that they can filch goodies off of. I was attracted to the puffed grains, however. Memories came back from a farm house kitchen in Iowa, where I would pour cold milk over puffed rice, or sometimes wheat before cresting the meal with sugar. The sugar, heavier than puff or milk, would wait at the bottom of the bowl for me to finish off the cereal and milk before scooping it out with my eager spoon.

The salesman, dirty hands and clothes, had two large bags full of this cereal. By large, I mean the 20 gallon size that one uses for collecting leaves in the autumn. These were clear plastic bags, and the contents beckoned. But I realized that I was not enough of a magician to know how to cleanse either rice or wheat enough to enjoy even the sugar that had passed over it. I would have to just remember the experience and not relive it. I was contemplating a picture to help my memory when 3 thugs came running up and terrorized the poor man who was trying to make a living. The grabbed both bags and took off down the street. He was stunned, and pretty helpless. I had seen it all before on the bus; at a cross walk; in the market; in the train. A bold thief would come and take what he wanted and the crowds would just stand and watch. I remember the day someone said to me, "I just saw someone steal your cell phone when you weren't looking." I took off on a run after the three. Forty gallons of puffed grain might be light, but also bulky. Within a few giant paces, I had grabbed both bags from the surprised thugs. They held on, but so did I. They told me let go. I told them I would not, because the salesman and I were friends. This was not a lie. Even though I did not know him from Ho Chi Min, I did know that he had revived wonderful ancient memories, and I had felt a kinship. They had robbed him of his livelihood, and me of my memories. Another bond between him and myself.

The crowded sidewalks can produce a very large group of onlookers and curiosity seekers in China in the space of about 4 seconds. This was an exception in that the group was extremely large, and it took about 1.5 seconds. A shouting match began. They shouted things to me which I could not understand with my limited comprehension of thug Chinese vocabulary. I shouted a few short sentences at them, owing to my limited functional use of thug Chinese vocabulary. They refused to let go, as I also refused. I wanted to shout for someone to call the police, but I don't know the word for police. Just the sounds of a siren and twirling my hand over my head like the cherry on top of a police car that goes round and round when the siren goes up and down in its decibels. And I couldn't let go of the bags for sign language. Then, almost in in answer to an unspoken request, a police van pulled up. Two policemen jumped out and rushed towards our mob-in-the-making.

My first inkling of something-gone-wrong, was the seeming familiarity between the thugs and the police. They conversed easily back and forth obviously about me. I, having a smattering of police Chinese vocabulary, asked the officer, "are these pick-pockets and thugs?" The answer came very kindly and even with some degree of mirth that indeed they were not, but what are commonly known as plain cloths men. The crowd, which had grown larger by far more than just two, with the arrival of the two policemen, enjoyed with great gusto, the answer of the officer. A happy roar went up from all. The thugs-turned-cops, told their reinforcements that I was a friend of the law-breaking puffed rice-selling peasant. I watched as they turned to my protectee and asked him how it was that we knew one another. Uneducated he may have been, but he was no fool, and realized immediately that his safest recourse was to deny any relationship with myself whatsoever. This he promptly accomplished. I glanced down and realized that the puffed rice and wheat were probably no longer requiring my grip. I released the bags and told the former thugs that they did have an appearance not unlike some pick pockets I had recently seen plying their trade along the street called Dongmun. They nodded proud assent to the facts and began loading the contraband cereal (a real stash of maybe 2 kilos) into the waiting van. I bade them a farewell and went with Jeri back to the bus stop. The crowd, diminished only slightly in number and curiosity, followed to gaze longer upon the vigilante from the west and his blushing bride.

About half-way through our dinner, Jeri whispered across the table to me that she promised to tell this story at my funeral. I hope she can wait.

As we were leaving China, and passed through immigration, the officer studied my photograph in the passport, then stared long at me. "Have I seen you on TV?" Flattered by my movie-star appearance, I assured him that he had not. Then, after a moment's thought said, "Maybe this evening you did. The news perhaps?"


Friday, July 04, 2003

What I Saw

This morning I rode on the Subway system to go to the Conference office for the Ministers' Meetings. As I entered the station to go down to the platform I saw a young blind boy with his cane tapping his way along. I followed behind and saw him easily wend his way through the crowds and into a waiting car. He sat near the door and scooted very close to the corner. Then folded his umbrella and opened his back pack. He had a place lined with plastic just for the wet umbrella. When he retrieved from another pocket in his back pack, some necessary item, he knew just where to look for it. I thought of my frequent and frantic searches through my own back pack when I finally had to resign myself to having forgotten the searched for item at home or office, only to find it later when I emptied my back pack.

I guess the Lord knows that I am fairly hopeless as a sighted person and would be a tragedy if blind. I can hardly keep track of what I can see, let alone what I cannot see.
I then reflected on some of the things I have seen in the last few weeks on visits to China.
I saw two prostitutes fighting on the street over one man. He stood there calmly being tugged one direction and then another. I saw two boys who had aggravated a policeman. He tried to convince them by harsh looks to stop. They jumped a barrier and crossed the street. This was something that he could not do with his motorcycle. He finally... too late, parked the bike and did the same. He ran, but they ran faster, pausing to turn and taunt him. I saw two members of one family, a mother and baby, sitting on the pavement beside a busy street eating rotted food by the handfuls from a trash can.

I stood waiting for a bus. I heard a crashing sound that seemed to be quick and yet last so long. At my right I saw that a crane perched at the top of a sky scraper under construction, had dropped a load of iron-pipe scaffolding that it had been lifting. I rushed to the site and saw two men who had been buried beneath the falling scaffolding, helped out and carried out to the street. I saw the taxi drivers rush by because of the blood. I saw the angry employees force a taxi to stop, standing in the road so that he, the driver, could not pass. I saw him threaten to run over these men if they didn't let him pass. I saw the wounded men cry covered with blood, bruises, cuts and torn clothing. And then I saw the change on the driver's face when I went to the window and offered him Y100 (about $12.00 US) to take them to a hospital. I saw him become kind and gentle offering them transportation.

I saw two beggars. One was a beggar who did not have 2 hands. One was missing. His hair was matted, and he lay on his face on the sidewalk kowtowing (before the emperors of old, those who gained audience would kowtow by tapping their head on the floor 3 times). This beggar seemed to have such control that he could stop just a millimeter from the paving before lifting his head to kowtow again and again. But when I reached where he stood, I saw that he did not stop. His forehead and face were covered with blood that also matted his hair. The second beggar was a young boy who had a bright intelligent face. His legs had not developed properly and would not support the weight of his body should he walk upright. He walked therefore like an animal on all fours. He did not crawl, but sprinted along like a dog, bounding among pedestrians, stopping not infrequently to ask for alms.

And I saw two young Chinese men. One works in a restaurant where he is in an apprenticeship. He studied food service in College, and he works now as a waiter. He is among the 13 employees there that I give Bible Studies to. He was one who was so thrilled when I brought him a Bible. The first he had ever held. We took a picture together as if it were some grand presentation when in fact it was just on the steps to a busy restaurant in China. To actually conduct a Bible Study would be against the law, but to give a person a Bible printed in China, but hardly easy to buy or even find, could not be against the law. And I just hold out the first lesson and say in my limited Chinese, "Would you like to have this?" The next time I visit the restaurant, the waiters come one by one to my table and tell me what lesson they are ready for next. This waiter told me that he loved the lessons and studies the same lesson daily until I bring the next.

The second young man runs a tea shop. He readily took the lessons, but when I came the next time he told me he did not understand. When it was the day off for the waiter, I took him to the tea shop. And there I saw two young men, born and raised in a China that tried to be Godless, looking at the Bible together. The waiter explaining to the shop keeper how to use the study guides.

Several couplets were moving. Some were strange, some were horrifying. But none was as significant or as thrilling as those two heads bent over God's word springing to life again in China.