Archive for the 'World News' Category


Little treasures that bring joy

IMG_2645 On this glorious fall day, after a morning of various personal and work errands, I decided to eat my lunch on the deck, looking out at the trees in my wooded backyard. Said lunch was a sliced Bosc pear and an almond butter/blackberry jam sandwich on toasted sprouted wheat bread from my favorite La Calavera Bakery, blessedly located between my house and Mingei’s current home on New Street.  A great treat.  To collect my crumbs and wipe the inevitable smears away, I grabbed one of the towels hanging from cabinet handles in my kitchen.  Thus began a reverie on the small, delightful items we interact with everyday, the seemingly insignificant, functional things that can bring us pleasure and delight. None of these kitchen towels came through our business Mingei World Arts, as so many of the things in my home do, but each is handmade and carries memories of when I bought it.  One is a small, coarsely woven brown flax towel from Finland, vintage but still unused, starched and creased when I found it at a charity sale in Minneapolis. One is a naturally-dyed citron and drab cotton towel acquired on a trip to Pleasant Hill, an old Shaker village in my home state of Kentucky.  On the far right is a golden hand-spun linen towel with stripes from India, where Mingei has shopped many times.  This piece, however, was picked up on impulse in Blue Ridge, GA as I browsed the little shops there with friends. Such is “mingei”, the word coined by the Japanese philosopher Soetsu, to describe a simple, useful item that can bring joy. As I drove home from my errands before my deck lunch, I listened to radio news about the Ebola outbreak, about economic uncertainty in Europe, about political vitriol here at home.  Then, I plucked a dishtowel from its handle, and went outside to watch the leaves flutter in the sunlight.– Ann


Bangkok cools off!

It is the hottest time of the year in Thailand– both politically and meteorologically.  The Red Shirts are demonstrating  and it looks today as if  the current government may fall in the near future.  As we have watched films of the clashes between protesters and police, we keep thinking of how darn hot it is there now.  It hit 96 F in Bangkok today and is expected to reach 109 in Chiang Mai on Thursday!

For now, the violence has subsided and  protests in Bangkok have paused for a few days to celebrate Songkran, or the Water Festival, also known as Thai New Year.  This holiday, celebrated from April 13-15,  was originally celebrated in the northern parts of the country, introduced by the Burmese who adopted it from the Hindu festival Holi.

While colored pigments and water are tossed in India during Holi, plain water is splashed on everyone during Songkran, which is festivized most vigorously in Chiang Mai.  During Songkran, Thais shoot each other with squirt guns or douse everyone with hoses, but also may give their home altar figures of Buddhas a bath and wash temple Buddhas with fragrant water to bring good luck and prosperity.  This is actually how the water-tossing came about.  The holy water that had poured over the Buddhas was collected and used to bless loved ones.  Today, while some still focus on the religious meanings of the holiday, on the streets, it is more about the fun.

And today in Bangkok, the Red Shirts have dropped their arms and taken up squirt guns (read about it in  the New York Times.)  We have contacted some Thai friends to get some more personal accounts of what is happening, but they seem to be away from their computers, probably out getting drenched!  Until we have their reports, we’ll have to tap some other sources.  In the meantime, enjoy this video of the protesters and tourists having a wet old time in Bangkok.  Aaaahh!!!


Protests and bloodshed in Thailand

We are watching what is happening in Thailand with concern as the Red Shirts and police clash in Bangkok and Red Shirt protesters also gather in Chiang Mai at the Provincial Governor’s Office.  Reports are now that 20 people have died in Bangkok, including a Reuters reporter.  The protests in Bangkok are taking place in areas we know well.  In Chiang Mai, the governor’s house is literally right next to the guest house where we stay.  Our friend Sopin supports the Red Shirts and, if his health allows, is no doubt participating in the activities in Chiang Mai.  We will let you know as we learn more.