Quetzal

Happy April Fool’s Day! What’s quetzal, anyway? A noun, a verb, a symptom brought on in quarantine for the corona virus?

Glad you asked. The quetzal is a legend, a myth, a member of the trogon family, and one really cool bird. It’s also very, very elusive.

And what the hell is a trogon? Let’s start at the top. Until just now, I didn’t know. The term comes from the Greek and means ‘nibbling’, because quetzals carve through rotting wood to make their nests in tree trunks. The trogon family of birds is an exclusive club: they are the only animal with a heterodactyl toe arrangement. [1] The resplendent quetzal lives only in a narrow range of cloud forests at high elevations in Central America. They don’t migrate, and like altitudes of 4,000–10,000 ft (1,200–3,000 m).

A lot of people think it’s the most beautiful bird in the world. The quetzal was sacred to the Aztecs and Mayans. The Aztecs associated the bird with the snake god, Quetzalcoatl. Kings and nobles wore quetzal feather headdresses for special ceremonies.

And oh my god, those feathers…. The head and back of the bird are a brilliant green, the belly feathers are bright red. The female has more gray on her chest, and black and white in her tail, while the male has incredibly long streaming tail feathers that trail up to three feet (!) behind him. These don’t grow until the bird is at least three years old.

The quetzal’s big, about 36-40 cm or 14-16 inches long. But its brilliant green feathers are iridescent and blend perfectly into the cloud forest foliage. For a large bird, the quetzal is surprisingly hard to spot.

So when we planned our trip to Costa Rica (I write this in March, after two weeks of the virus lockdown, and it feels like a different life time that we took that trip, not just a few weeks ago), we hoped we’d get lucky enough to spot a quetzal. We went to the Monteverde cloud forest region. One day we joined a tour to the smaller and less crowded Curi Cancha Reserve. Amazingly enough we saw a pair of quetzals! Quetzals are monogamous – and there they were, male and female! Thank god for the guides that day, because there’s no way we would have sighted the birds on our own. They’re just too perfectly camouflaged. I only have one photo for you, but hopefully it was worth reading this post to get to it.

We present to you in all its shy glory: THE QUETZAL! This is the female, a brilliant emerald that dazzles the eye. Believe it or not her partner is much, much gaudier

It was magic to see a quetzal pair. We got lucky that day.

NOTES: [1] Dictionary.com explains heterodactyl is “having the first and fourth toes directed backward, and the second and third forward, as in trogons”. Well, what do you know. This is my second new word for the week. Trogon was the first. PS: This post is not an April Fool’s joke! Resplendent quetzal © Jadi Campbell 2020. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

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Tsunami Cowboys is Longlisted!

My second novel Tsunami Cowboys was just named a semifinalist in the ScreenCraft Cinematic Book competition. Over 1,200 books were considered. Here is the official notice. Click to go to the link and see the list of books still in the running, including mine!

Announcing the 2019 ScreenCraft Cinematic Book Competition Semifinalists 

Hong Kong: Popo and the Frogs, Part 1

Hong Kong at Christmas is exciting. This vibrant city has an added air of glamour to celebrate the holidays. But there are still quiet corners nearby. I enjoyed gorgeous waterfront views where I stayed with my sister and nephew in Sai Kung.

In just 40 minutes we could be in the city. In the days before Christmas we visited the Flower Market where a man bought a bouquet of roses bigger than he was,

and explored a street stocked with every kitchen gadget known to cookdom.

I was amused by the street for home aquariums!

I felt bad for the goldfish though

As always, Hong Kong was filled with billboards advertising food and high-end luxury items.

The metro station underneath this glamorous ad is badly defaced

But when I looked again, the graffiti and damage from last year’s protests were everywhere.  The government under Carrie Lam  allowed the police to commandeer MTR (Mass Transit Railway) train cars or reroute trains so they bypassed stops where protesters planned to gather. Since the young people were being hindered, they decided to prevent the police from moving freely, too. And once this happened, the demonstrations took a turn. Hong Kong’s superb transit system became a casualty of the ongoing unrest.

Ticket machines inside stations were vandalized. Strategic stations have been repeatedly shut down. We passed through the Mong Kok station less than an hour before it was set on fire Christmas Eve. The knots of heavily armed riot police (Popo) we saw ended up in street fights with the Frogs (the protesters).

All these machines have been smashed
Traffic lights are damaged
The bank is open for business with a temporary facade, while the street’s bricks are gone

 

 

The Bank of China and the Construction Bank of China continue to be targeted. Their glass facades are smashed, the sidewalks emptied of the bricks used by protesters. In places bricks are now literally glued into the sidewalk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The protesters have five demands.

  1. For the protests not to be characterised as a “riot”
  2. Amnesty for arrested protesters
  3. An independent inquiry into alleged police brutality
  4. Implementation of complete, universal suffrage
  5. Withdrawal of a bill introduced in April of last year, which triggered the first protests. It would have allowed suspected criminals to be extradited to mainland China under certain circumstances. The bill was finally withdrawn in October 2019. This has not placated the anger of the mostly young students fighting to maintain Hong Kong autonomy. They want all five  demands to be met.

Graffiti and protest signs go up more quickly than the government can remove them. In my next post I have photos of Popo and the Frogs, the police and the protesters, and how they are represented. See you then.

Click here for a complete list of the December 2019 protests on Wikipedia

NOTES: ©Jadi Campbell 2020. To see Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de. To learn more about the reasons for the protests, go here: Hong Kong protests, CNN 

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Ho Ho Ho, Hong Kong

I just missed the renewal of the protests last night in Hong Kong. Actually, I literally just missed being stuck in a metro station as it was set on fire.

I’m here with my sister Pam at my nephew Niko’s home in the New Territories. He runs an awesome bar called Momentai – go to http://www.momentai-la.com/  for more info! – and yesterday we headed into Hong Kong for some last minute shopping. This is such an easy region to get around. We simply hopped on the bus from Sai Kung to the Mong Kok district and got out forty minutes later.

Like each day I’ve been in downtown Hong Kong, I photographed the smashed traffic lights and graffiti from the relentless months of protests against the Chinese government. Niko says it’s been quiet for the last month, but he’s been in the city when the air was filled with tear gas.

Hong Kong is always crowded. And on Christmas Eve at rush hour after 5:00 p.m. the crowds are, um, impressive. We wended our way through the Ladies Market and walked from there over to a big store on Nathan Road I visit each time I’m here to buy tea. We made a brief stop at the Harbor City Mall. It was around 7:00 p.m. and time to head home.

We exited the mall where a small and intense knot of riot police stood. We passed a second group 100 yards down the sidewalk. And then a third. And then a fourth.

The policemen’s faces under their helmets were half covered in black cloth and they wore black padded knee protectors and heavy boots, and carried clear plastic shields with Police written in English and Chinese, and batons, and pepper spray, and tear gas cannisters, and gas masks, and thick vests, and weapons. They looked like storm troopers.

This was maybe not the time to take photographs. I left my camera in my bag.

The streets were packed with last minute shoppers and everyone who was now off work and trying to get home. All around us young people wore festive Christmas stockings or reindeer antlers on their heads. We inched slowly along underground with the thick throngs through the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR (Mass Transit Railway), squeezed into the train for Mong Kok, and then caught a bus there back to Sai Kung.

An hour later some of those young people in stockings and antlers were fighting in the streets with the police. The Harbor City Mall was the beginning flash point. Last night the authorities were forced to shut down Nathan Road. Protesters set the Mong Kok metro station on fire. The two MTR stations we’d used stopped running, and the area turned into one gigantic traffic jam.

The most bizarre moment is that shortly before midnight and the beginning of Christmas Day, the protesters stopped what they were doing and wished everyone, including the police force, a Merry Christmas.

Ho Ho Ho, Hong Kong.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2019. Photos to follow. Click here for my author page to purchase my books.

For more information on the present situation in Hong Kong go to these articles: BBC News and  South China Morning Post

It’s a Wrap

Whether you’re getting ready for the holidays or the end of 2019, another year is coming to an end. This post is my annual round-up of the year’s musings and in-jokes.

My blog thread about names for animal families that I began in honor of my dad Bobbo 3 years ago still isn’t finished: The Animal Kingdom 27, The Animal Kingdom 28, The Animal Kingdom 29, The Animal Kingdom 30, The Animal Kingdom 31 , The Animal Kingdom 32

Uwe and I explored some new places: Malaysia and Borneo Wild Orangutans, Frog Paradise Part One, Frog Paradise Part Two, Shaman Medicine. I wrote about spots we previously visited: Xi’an and Speyer

I bitched about a place: Brunei and moaned when I got sick in What? I Can’t Hear You

At some point during the year I always talk about food: The Foods of Fall and Love Tea and about traditions: Pour Wine and Oil in my Grave

I wrote a piece about memory, and that turned into a moving thread that got tons of comments: His Name was Bond, PS: Have a Nice DayBonds of Kindness

I got to boast when 2 of my One Page Plays were accepted for performance! My play Baby You Were Great tied for runner-up as Best Comedy! The One Page Play Festival

So, it’s a wrap…. as 2019 ends, I invite all of you who have read my books to please write reviews for them on Amazon. These are vital to authors. And – if you haven’t read them – please consider buying my books as gifts for yourselves or your loved ones. As always, thank you for following me and being such a great tribe.

See you in 2020!

—Jadi

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2019. Photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see Uwe’s animal photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to purchase my books.

Get Me to the Church on Time: Malaysia

Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur

We spent a couple weeks in Malaysia this spring. Most of that time we stayed in the classic tourist destinations: Georgetown and Melaka for their rich layers of Dutch, Portuguese, British history.

Visitors at St. Paul’s Church, Melaka
Portuguese tombstones, St. Paul’s Church, Melaka

We tried to see some of the incredible nature, too. My personal highlight was Sarawak on Borneo. We went to the UNESCO global geopark on Langkawi Island and took a bus inland to the tea country of the Cameron Highlands.

Everywhere we went, I was struck by two things. The first is that in a predominantly Muslim country it can take a while to find alcohol. Evening mealtimes for Uwe and me are when we want to linger over a glass and talk about what we saw during the day. In Malaysia we’d peruse the menu at the front of a restaurant and turn the pages to the very back where the drinks were listed. If it didn’t serve beer or wine, often we’d smile and say thank you, and head further down the street feeling slightly like jerks.

Mosque and Muslim cemetary, Sarawak, Borneo

The second thing I noticed is that in every place we visited, streets in Malaysia contain the houses of worship of different religions. Muslim mosques, Christian churches, Hindu, Buddhist, Tin Hau and Chinese temples, one next to the other line a street. Everywhere.

Hindu temple, Georgetown
Hindu priest, Georgetown
The goddess Tin Hau, patroness and protector of sailors and immigrants, Georgetown

We explored many of them and I was delighted and calmed by the sweet atmosphere in these roads. The world feels more and more divided. But the Malaysians we talked with are proud of the religious tolerance and multicultural blend that makes up their country.

Chinese temple lanterns, Sarawak, Borneo
Dutch, British, German cemetary, Melaka

And that’s a concept I’ll gladly raise a glass of wine to….

NOTES:  © Jadi Campbell 2019. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s pics from Malaysia and our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Pour Wine and Oil in my Grave

I attended the funeral of a friend’s mother recently here in Stuttgart. I arrived early and sat awhile in the silent cemetery chapel. First, I lit a slim yellow taper in the entrance to the church.

Greek Orthodox monastery, Corfu

The family is Greek Orthodox. I’ve lit candles in lots of Orthodox churches throughout Greece, and once went to a church service in a tiny church in Thessaloniki that stands on a spot where the Apostle Paul preached.

I’d never been to an Orthodox funeral. Huge wreathes of white flowers bought by the families of her children were arrayed to the left of the altar. Candles in red glasses flickered around a framed photograph of Olga on a small stand; a cake in a white box and a bottle each of wine and olive oil were placed beside the photo.

The priest prayed and sang in Greek; he lifted the icon set on the casket and kissed it. Believers in the chapel crossed themselves at the right places in the text. Later, it was time to bury Olga.

A man played horn music, the priest chanted as the coffin was lowered into the ground. He opened the bottle of wine and poured it, in the shape of a cross, in the grave. Next (after wrapping his long black robes between his knees to keep them from getting soiled) he poured olive oil in the shape of the cross. He took the white box of cake that my friend had carried out of the church with her and, cutting it, spooned some of the cake into the grave as well.

We approached the grave one by one. When it was my turn, I tossed in a blooming flower and then a spade of dirt onto the casket.

The musician started playing Amazing Grace, which almost put me in tears. Some pieces of music transcend time, and continents, and cultures. In any language, for any generation, they bring solace and peace.

Then we went to a restaurant for the Makaria, the “Meal of Mercy”  that follows an Orthodox funeral. This one was a German/Greek hybrid of coffee, Butterbrezel (large buttered pretzels), cakes and Greek pastries. My friend went around the long table and spooned out some of that traditional funeral cake onto each of our plates. “My mother used to make this dish herself,” she said. “Koliva. It’s traditional; every Greek family has a recipe. I didn’t have time to make it myself, so I bought one at a Greek bakery.”

I ate the Koliva, a mix of sesame seeds, almonds, oats, ground walnuts, cinnamon, sugar, and anise amongst other ingredients…

I went home afterwards and lit candles.

The last funeral I attended was for my father.

NOTES: The wine is the blood in our veins and the oil announces the resurrection. Koliva is a dish used liturgically in the Eastern Orthodox Church to commemorate the dead. The cake is symbolic of death and the resurrection. Orthodox-death-rites. © Jadi Campbell 2019. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Bonds of Kindness

His Name was Bond, Part Three

I missed only one summer afternoon when I was supposed to clean. Mr. Bond telephoned early that evening; it was still light out. Had something happened? Was I okay?

I was off with my boyfriend somewhere that day, and the time (ahem) had run away from us. “I’m so sorry!” I said. “I’ll be right over.”

Mr. Bond had to go to the store, so he said he’d swing by and get me. When I came out to the road, he stood in the driveway talking with my parents. The three of them were laughing. I bet it was something along the lines of, “Teenagers, what can you do…”

I hadn’t thought about Mr. Bond in years. But I’d open my old photo album and every once in a while I come across his photograph.

I’d remember that for a time I’d known this kind man.

In these last few weeks I sat down to write about him, and both memories and words rushed out. An avalanche of elements from long-ago strike me. Some details are so clear. The heavy gemstones in the baroness’s jewelry. The frank eyes of Mr. Bond’s daughter. My astonishment that my simple notes had such a huge effect.

We communicated via those notes. I had a key to his home, that I used to let myself in the door on the days I cleaned. We didn’t see one another to talk often.

But I recall the ease I felt with him. Young people are unsure of themselves. Mr. Bond was a thoughtful conversationalist and I never felt foolish, or too green. And that is a remarkable thing. It’s a rare adult who can make a teenager feel like he sees and hears without being condescending.

Leaving notes was second nature; I can easily imagine that I told him I wanted to write. Let’s leave aside the fact that it took another 40 years before I actually made that wish a reality.

I can’t remember what the notes said. I probably scribbled things like, “Dear Mr. Bond, enjoy the salad greens. I’ve already washed them. I hope you’re having a good summer. PS: Have a nice day.” “It’s autumn! I brought carrots and zucchini. They’re in the crisper. PS: Have a nice day.” Or maybe, “I have Spanish Club after school, so I’ll be late coming to clean on Thursday. PS: Have a nice day.” I just don’t remember.

How I wish I’d asked Mr. Bond’s daughter if I could see his manuscript! At the time I assumed it was an autobiography, but how can I be sure? Maybe it was fiction – maybe he was writing a novel – maybe I was a character in it somewhere. I’ll never know. I was too startled by the information that my notes had inspired him to write a book, and I was definitely way too surprised and shy to ask anything further. I was sixteen. I had zero context for even one single part of this experience.

His passing was my first direct experience of the loss death brings. A few months later one of my best friends died in a car accident, and then a classmate’s father died. I’d never been to a funeral before. During that hard autumn I went to three. I was suddenly forever aware of how terribly fragile our hold on life is. For the longest time when I thought of him, I thought about dying.

I have two last comments to make as I close my album of ancient memories. I’ve discovered a gift in here. All these years later, when I look back what strikes me is a realization: sometimes my heart was in the right place. Those thoughtless teenaged years contained moments of generosity, and grace.

And, finally, this story about Mr. Bond and me has turned itself into a story about the living.  When I write about Mr. Bond now I think about life, and living; what we give to others; and what lasts in what they give us.

PS: Have a nice day.

© Jadi Campbell 2019. Photo property of Jadi Campbell. To see Uwe’s photos and pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about me and purchase my books.

Borneo: Shaman Medicine

I was going to tell you about Malaysian Borneo when I got sidetracked by their neighbor Brunei. Moving on quickly (which is what we did as we flew over the sultanate on our way to the state of Sarawak), we landed in Kuching. What a lovely, lovely city. Kuching should get its own post, and likely will. We roamed along the riverfront walk and slurped down laksa noodle dishes with gusto. Kuching is a great spot to head out to various national parks to see wildlife.

Borneo is home of the native Dayak tribes. Remember childhood tales of the wild headhunters of Borneo? The Dayak call this ritual Ngayau. We visited Dayak long houses. Smoked skulls still hang at the hearth in the central long house.

The most important tribal figure is the head chief, closely followed by the shaman. This medicine man, also known as a balian [1] is responsible for the health of the tribe as well as interceding between the worlds.

During our time in Kuching I’d been glancing in shops without actually entering any of them. Among the streets of tourist trinkets, one store fascinated me. On the last day I made a beeline for that shop. [2]

And then I made a beeline for a shelf lined with containers topped by human figures.

Jerry Ang, the soft-spoken shop owner, kindly answered all my questions. He told me these were Dayak shaman medicine containers. The figures are hand carved from polished buffalo or cow bone. A shaman had hand-etched the jar with scrimshaw patterns. Dayak shamans used the containers to store herbs, magic powders and betal lime to make medical potions. Some still contained resins – Jerry and I opened each jar and sniffed.

The carved figure indicates the illness the potion was intended to treat. Some of the figures held their heads (aches and pains of the head) or their stomachs. Some figures even depicted a person crouched over… the traveler’s curse of diarrhea for sure.

My piece has a prawn carved on the back: Jerry thought maybe prawns were one of the main ingredients in the medicine. Or perhaps the prawn indicated the woman who made the potion (he said the figure was female), or an ancestor. An on-line source tells me the scrimshaw work represents animals that bring good luck. If anyone can give me more information, I’d be most grateful!

NOTES: [1] Balian is the term used for traditional healers on Bali, too. Healing arts are passed down through generations. Twenty years ago I did a massage exchange with the son of a balian there; he had been taught by his father. To learn more about the Dayak shamans go to http://factsanddetails.com. The article gives the following information: “Shamanic curing, or balian, is one of the core features of these ritual practices. Because illness is thought to result in a loss of the soul, the ritual healing practices are devoted to its spiritual and ceremonial retrieval. In general, religious practices focus on the body, and on the health of the body politic more broadly. Sickness results from giving offense to one of the many spirits inhabiting the earth and fields, usually from a failure to sacrifice to them. The goal of the balian is to call back the wayward soul and restore the health of the community through trance, dance, and possession.” [Source: Library of Congress, 2006] Or see Wikipedia: The Dayak People [2] See also Unika Borneo, the shop where I found my figure. I receive no commission for mentioning the store. I just think they deserve to be mentioned.  More figures can be admired at https://borneoartifact.com and https://www.esotericstuff.com

© Jadi Campbell 2019. All photos © Uwe Hartmann. To see more of Uwe’s pics from our trips go to viewpics.de.

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.

Borneo: The Beyond Bad

The island of Borneo is very special. Its territory is divided up between Malaysia (the Borneo part), Indonesia (Kalimantan), and the tiny sultanate of Brunei. Brunei is currently in the news as the all-powerful Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, who also acts as prime minister, insists that Brunei will implement sharia law. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has ruled non-stop for 52 years.

Harsh penalties have been in force since 2014; the second and third stages to the penal code just went into effect a few weeks ago on April 3. People convicted of being gay men or adulterers die by stoning. Thieves lose the right hand for a first offense, and the left foot for the second. Blasphemy or leaving the Muslim faith earns the death penalty. The new laws criminalize ‘exposing’ Muslim children to the beliefs and practices of any religion other than Islam. Cross dressing earns imprisonment. Abortion shall be punished with public flogging. Lesbians get flogged with 40 strokes of the cane and/or a maximum of 10 years in prison.

These laws mostly effect Muslims, though some aspects apply to non-Muslims. One-third of the country’s population is not Muslim.

Human Rights Watch condemns the new penal code as “barbaric to the core”. In ‘fairness’, it’s not entirely clear whether death by stoning will actually be implemented. A high burden of proof is needed.

We just finished up a trip to that part of the world and had an amazing time on Borneo. It repels me beyond words to think that we might have visited this barbaric regime.

But I digress. I wanted to tell you about our trip. Come back later; I promise I’ll be in a better mood. I’ll have stories about orangutans, rare frogs, and Dayak shaman medicine to share with you.

NOTES: © Jadi Campbell 2019. If you can stomach it, read more at https://www.channelnewsasia.com.

Go also to  https://www.theguardian.com

Click here for my author page to learn more about my books and me.