on location

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    The Island Paid Member

    BEFORE AUGUST 29, 2005, New Orleans was humming along like any other major, if dysfunctional, American city. If your refrigerator stopped working, for example, you could open the Yellow Pages and choose from a dozen names. After a few rings, a New Orleans accent would answer and a repairman would be dispatched. A few hours later a white van would pull up and you’d hear the guy on his cell phone, cursing the traffic over the bridge. That’s how it used to go. That’s how society worked. It was like the refrigerator’s hum—difficult to detect until it stops. But in the weeks and months after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, returning evacuees experienced the astonishing silence of a society stopped all at once. More »
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    Muttering "Mutton" in Mongolia Paid Member

    Twenty hours in the air and half a planet away from home, we finally catch sight of Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar, in a treeless valley surrounded by the four sacred peaks of Bogd Khan, Bayanzurkh, Chingeltei, and Songino Khairkhan. It’s 10 p.m. when we land, yet the sun is only just setting at this northern latitude. Burnt-orange light streaks the ground between long shadows. The darkening sky and the treeless plain squeeze between them the last minutes of day. On the horizon, an iridescent thunderstorm pours torrential rain down its mushroom stalk. Soviet-era helicopters sit in the weeds and rust under sagging rotors. More »
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    Exiting The Stream Paid Member

    We’ve already climbed some sixty steps, and we’re still far from the top. I suddenly find myself wondering how many times my petite twenty-seven-year-old Chinese tour guide has scaled Muk Yu Hill. The statue at the top, Tian Tan—the Giant Buddha—looms overhead, its enigmatic features momentarily lost in a beam of sunlight. For the majority of visitors to Po Lin Monastery, situated on the Ngong Ping Plateau on Lantau Island, Tian Tan is more than a breathtaking landmark; it is perhaps the most tangible symbol of Hong Kong’s Buddhist community. But my youthful guide, Hau Sze Chan, might be a close second. Although she leads the Tian Tan tour, like many young Chinese she has mixed feelings about her country’s ancestral religion: “In Chinese society, older people believe in Buddhism,” she explains. “When they are younger they believe in Taoism. I studied philosophy. I don’t believe in anything.” More »
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    Cyber Buddhism in Bangkok Paid Member

    In the garden outside Wat Buaniwet, Thailand’s most important Buddhist temple, Abhinito, a young monk, sat with me under the shade of a large tropical plant. Together, we discussed Abhinito’s emigration from Indonesia to Thailand, the horrific Bangkok traffic, and other topics. But after thirty minutes, Abhinito appeared distracted. “I’m sorry,” he apologized, “but I have to go update my website.” More »
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    Fragile Bonds Paid Member

    Satellite images of the Palk Strait, which separates the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu from the Jaffna peninsula in northern Sri Lanka, show a ghostly line linking the two. Below the water's surface is a ridge of limestone that once formed an isthmus joining the landmasses. It is an apt image for the complex yet buried connections between the two provinces. More »
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    Tribute in Light Paid Member

    Nature will not have us fret and fume. She does not like our benevelonce or our learning much better than she likes our frauds and wars.             -Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Spiritual Laws" More »