blog > 2011 > January

From Haiti: the world of discovering self by Dr. Jane Aronson

Jan 29, 2011

Dr. Jane Aronson, a renowned pediatric infectious disease and adoption medicine specialist.  World Wide Orphan Foundation, the organization she started with the vision to transform the lives of orphaned children around the world, has been making a difference with children in Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Kenya, Serbia and Vietnam. To donate to WWO click here.

I’m writing this journal on early Friday and I get to go home soon to the two feet of snow in Maplewood, New Jersey. My children, whom I miss, are for sure sleeping and dreaming of the fun that they had in the snow on Wednesday. I just popped up at 4:25 am thinking about the fact that the children I met this week in Haiti have no music in their lives… nothing creative in their lives. There were no mirrors in the orphanages so they can’t see themselves and if someone takes a photo of them, they see it perhaps for a moment, and then it isn’t for them. It is for us so we can show people how much they need and want, how cute they are, how sad they are, and how tragic their lives are. But we steal the photo and take it away with us and they don’t see themselves. They can’t watch themselves grow up. We touch them and love them for a moment and that is fine, but then we leave. We ask them questions and find out about their deepest feelings of loss and we know that they have these feelings. We film them because they need to tell their stories. So they tell me their stories and I see them, really see them, and they are real for me. I know their names and I take away their memories of dead mamas and papas. I think about how WWO can help kids have better mental health. I begin to dream about how we can use music, art, dance, theater, and soccer to help kids express themselves and feel better and feel stronger. We do this in other countries…no brainer. I am going away and I am leaving them now; I will be back, but they don’t know this. I feel badly and I am sorry that I opened their wounds without healing with them. I am so sorry Djempsy, Fryzhelly, Watson, Jean, Christophe — all of you. They are “paper thin”…and so am I.

One of the best moments this week was when I filmed the kids singing a song about the history of Haiti (something about Haiti being mountains surrounded by water) on my iPhone and then showed them the film of themselves. They couldn’t get close enough to the little screen on my iPhone and they laughed at themselves. Their big smiles, white teeth and velvety black skin were so close to me. I was loving their joy so much that I almost fell off a cement platform that had been poured the week before as part of the construction of a new bathroom. There I was seated in a child’s straw chair an inch away from the edge and the kids were laughing and pointing to themselves as they watched the film. I didn’t fall off, but if I had, I would have laughed and had the satisfaction of the power of their excursion into a new world…the world of discovery of self. (read the whole article @ Journal #3)


Symbiosis for survival by Misha Lyuve

Jan 27, 2011
Raquel Paiewonsky is a contemporary artist that currently resides in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Her work has traveled across the globe. It expolores human body, urban life, social constructs and social issues. The photographs featured in this article are from the project Simbiosis para salvarnos (Symbiosis for survival) that has been shown in Santo Domingo, Miami, Lima, Buenos Aires, and is heading to Mexico soon.

There is a type of artwork that when you see it for the first time, it makes such an impression on you that you need to pause – that was my experience of Symbiosis para survir, the project that came out of the Raquel’s concern for the environment and tells a story of integration with nature as a strategy for growth and expansion of our lives and our planet. Children with their heads under the roots of the plants are the seeds needed to fulfill the mission to heal the Earth.

Raquel and I met last week in Santo Domingo to talk about her art.  Raquel said that the photographs, unfortunately, don’t fully show all the work that was done to realize this project: the conversations she had with the kids to explain the project and why she is doing it, their curiosity and enthusiasm, and two days of work and play on the beach.

“With visual works, what people see is the bit leftover at the end, after you’ve finished working. The work is like the sediment at the bottom of the glass, not like drinking the wine. Whereas when you are listening to a piece of music, you are listening to it being made.”  Martin Creed

Impatience and being undeserving by Misha Lyuve

Jan 24, 2011

I’ve been wondering whether impatience is my inborn trait or I acquired it through the years of living in big cities. In either case, there was no better place to explore my impatience than while traveling through colorful destinations of Dominican Republic, the island where time and its inhabitants’ relationship to it takes on different qualities than what I’m used to.

As a Dominican friend explained, once she moved back after living in New York city for several years, it took her a while to get used to, for example, that a cashier in a bank could have you wait for ten minutes while she is finishing up a conversation with her mother-in-law. You got the picture.

Waves at a surfing beach at Cabarete, Dominican Republic

Luckily, traveling through the island I had many opportunities to watch my impatience rise from my stomach, mixed with the sense of entitlement, flavored with disappointment and frustration and garnished with self-righteousness, getting crushed against the shores of my consciousness as foamy and mighty waves of famous surfing beaches in Cabarete.

Recently someone told me about being undeserving, a way of being where no-one owes me anything; like the world is not there to serve my needs and please me, but when it does, to accept it as a grace and a gift. Imagine that!

“Howl”: a lesson in unrestrained creativity and freedom of speech by Misha Lyuve

Jan 17, 2011

I planned to finally see “Social Network” at Crosby hotel’s Sunday movie night, but all of a sudden they changed it to “HOWL”, a movie about Allen Ginsberg, an esoteric American poet that I knew little about. From one extreme to another, I thought, and went along. I couldn’t even expect what a treat I was offered.

I discovered passionate verses of Ginsberg that rhythmically flow like a song, their expressiveness sounds like a dance, and their aliveness refreshes you as a mountain waterfall. I was given a lesson in losing boundaries in self-expression, extracting inspiration from everything and staying true to oneself.

The movie itself is word-to-word based on Ginsberg’s interviews, his poetry and transcripts from the legal proceedings against the publisher of “HOWL” (after publishing “HOWL” Lawrence Ferlinghetti  was arrested and charged with publication of obscenity in 1957 in San Francisco) – every word is history. The combination of the original footage, black-and-white shots as well as animation to take us in the depths of Ginsburg’s vision created an excellent medium to present “Howl” and its story.

I was blown away, inspired and grateful that I got to see something I would unlikely to stumble upon on my own.

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by

      madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn

      looking for an angry fix,

angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly

      connection to the starry dynamo in the machin-

      ery of night,

who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat

      up smoking in the supernatural darkness of

      cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities

      contemplating jazz...

     --"HOWL" by Alan Ginsberg

Continuing the inquiry into compassion by Misha Lyuve

Jan 15, 2011

And if we take all of it: our immediate circle of people including annoying neighbors and mean bosses, strangers we bump into on the trains or a grocery store or a highway or a homeless person on the street (might we worth a separate blog entry) and then the rest of the world full of starving orphans, abused women, people with debilitating illnesses, victims of natural disasters (oh how quickly the world forgot about Haiti) – where to get a heart capable of compassion for all of it and strong enough not to get crushed by heaviness, sorrow and helplessness?

And here we are sliding though our lives sipping on a latte, pissed off that the train hasn’t arrived on time and that this year’s raise didn’t meet our expectations and  that the fish was overcooked and and and

So how do we balance this walk on the thin rope of enjoying great lives we’ve got (even on a bad day), keeping an open heart full of compassion and not losing our sanity?

Oh not again, more questions than answers

A noteworthy suicide note and an inquiry into compassion by Misha Lyuve

Jan 11, 2011

Bill Zeller, a 27-year old Princeton PhD candidate and renowned internet programmer, committed a suicide and left a note that I find is worth a read (to read full letter click here)

The raw insights of his inner world and, ultimately, the act of suicide itself display a kaleidoscope of complex and contradictory intricacies of living. And I am sure if you read this letter you will end up with a wide range of opinions and emotions except for, probably, staying indifferent.

My question is about how the inner world is being expressed in the outer, for the most part in relationship with other humans.  Do we really have an idea of what the other, even someone close to us, is experiencing? After all, we’ve been conditioned to smile, exude success and thoughtlessly respond “great”s to “how are you?”s. And if we don’t feel it, we adjust. (Or else…?)

And for myself, I noticed that I became much harsher. In my life the intention to achieve desired destinations has become more important than attention, compassion or a random act of kindness.

Hmmm… definitely something to think about.

Leave comments with your thoughts.

Wisdom, a Bhutan inpired poem by Misha Lyuve

Jan 8, 2011


Of many men of many days
Just two are subject of this song,
They live their lives in different way,
But let’s not judge who’s right, who’s wrong.
            The first one had most stubborn eyes,
           If there’s a mount he came across,
           He had to reach up to its highs
           Regardless rain or fog or frost. 
                      And if a sparkle of a fear
                      Hid in a corner of his heart
                      He fought for it to disappear
                      For he and fear lived apart.
 The second man had gentle hands,
He’d stare for hours at a rose
And sing her love and magic chants
That at a moonlight he’d compose.
           And at the ocean’s yellow sands
           When sun would open sleepy eyes
           He’d greet it with a morning dance
           And watch its beauty slowly rise. 
                      If chance brought these two to one place,
                      They wouldn’t catch each other’s sight;
                      One would stroll up with rapid pace,
                      While other’s dreaming in sunlight. 
This not-so-accidental miss
Is not a problem whatsoever.
This story has a subtle twist
These two are one man however. 
           When first one tests the strength of will
           The second’s heart is pierced by sword;
           When latter sits at river still
           The first one is so deadly bored.
                      What’s wisdom? It’s an art of knowing
                      Which rose to love, which mount to climb,
                      Each inner world, expressed and growing,
                      To have its peace, its place, its time.

The year of dancing monks by Misha Lyuve

Jan 2, 2011

I know how to start a new year setting up goals and building out plans; and those quickly lead to a busy life with lots to do and likely many accomplishments.

A few months back traveling in Bhutan, I got to witness and even a little taste of a different kind of life. Bhutan is considered one of the least developed countries in the world, but don’t be fooled: those people are incredible advanced. You can see it in how they design their homes and villages; and a very low crime rate; and no beggars (mind it is just an hour flight from Delhi); but there are hospitals and schools in every urban center we passed (I even got a treatment for my back and at no charge).

And there are endless mountain peaks, and a very windy road (for the most part one-lane, but with very very gracious drivers), and little children running around till late (with no concern for safety), and our guide’s passion for his country and orchids, and very old and very new buddhist monasteries sometimes off the beaten track. And there are dancing monks…

And there was a moment during the trip when I knew harmony in a new way. Harmony as a value of life; a value that precedes goals, plans and accomplishments.

Hello 2011: the year of dancing monks.