‘Tis the season of giving and living. Here’s a hearty hoorah to you, dear readers, for your generous contributions to Menu for Hope III, which, as of this writing, is
nearing $43,000 beyond $58,000 in donations. Forty-three thousand dollars! Fifty-eight thousand dollars! That is thoroughly commendable. YEAH!!!! That is truly mind-bending. All proceeds go toward feeding the world’s 850 million hungry people. And there’s still a smidgen of time. View the prizes here, get your donations in here before Friday at 6 p.m. PST, and give yourselves a hug in this season of seasons.
Speaking of which, I wanted to assemble a little bundle of December sentiments, a gallery of holiday-ish looking scenes so you’d get a feel for the sights around here come Christmas-Hanukkah-Kwanzaa time. We have spent the past three Decembers in Buddhist and Hindu regions of the tropics, so no reindeer, snow-studded mountains or Christmas carolers wrapped in parkas. True, you’ll find 25-baht strings of blinking lights and little fake trees at most Thai supermarts; you’ll find stuffed Santas in the sweaty aisles of many Cambodian markets. But you’ll find those items in May, June, July and August as well. The lights blink all year round in Asia.
So no use pretending. What I offer instead is a random collection (Jerry’s collection) of shots as they are. It’s December in Asia, and it doesn’t look half bad.
Haputale, Sri Lanka, December 2004. The country’s mountainous interior, largely populated by Tamils, is home to thousands of tea-pickers and tea plantations. The best of the lot goes overseas.
Poinsettia tree, Haputale, Sri Lanka, December 2004. In its natural state, the poinsettia grows into a brilliant red-leaved tree reaching 15 feet or more. It is not native to Asia, but the tree grows widely throughout South and Southeast Asian mountainous regions.
Sunrise, Prek Toal, Cambodia, December 2005. In heart of Cambodia lies a great lake called the Tonle Sap. It is the nation’s lifeblood, Asia’s greatest freshwater lake, providing one of the world’s largest freshwater fish harvests. Prek Toal is a floating village on the Tonle Sap, in a remarkable ecosystem connected to the flow of the Mekong River. During the monsoon rains, the Mekong swells and backs up into the Tonle Sap river, which dumps into the Tonle Sap lake. In the dry season, the river reverses its flow and water runs toward the sea. Every year, the Tonle Sap rises and falls by 30 feet or more. These rich and abundant waters serve as mainland Southeast Asia’s most important waterbird nesting territory, home to great flocks of rare and endangered species.
Prek Toal fishermen, December 2005. In the wettest times of year, everything green here is under water.
Haputale vegetable vendor, Sri Lanka, December 2004.
Red and green, banana flowers and herbs, Chiang Mai market, December 2006. In the West, we think of the banana as an elongated yellow fruit. But the banana is a tropical herbaceous plant (not a tree) with an edible trunk, as well as these gorgeous red flowers, eaten in Southeast Asian salads, soups and stews.
Love on the train, heading inland, Sri Lanka, December 2004.
Misty, foggy Haputale, Sri Lanka, December 2004.
Floating homes and stores (that’s the local minimart on the left), Prek Toal, Cambodia, December 2005.
Santa and friend, Kandy, Sri Lanka, December 2004.