In the worst of times, such as right now, even this sort of construction work is an unimaginable luxury; all hands, and all hours of the day, are consumed by pawing through rubble, hoping or fearing to find relatives and friends and neighbors, and also hoping to find scraps of food and clothing and blankets, anything that might help the survivors cling to life.
There's nowhere to look for the basics of survival except in the rubble. There was no surplus of anything in Nepal to begin with, and only a single sizable airport for bringing relief in from the outside world.
Before these men could climb up on the scaffolding to lay brick, the sacks of mortar had to be brought in on the backs of people or donkeys; the streets here in this UNESCO World Heritage city of Bhaktapur, near Kathmandu, were much too narrow for cars or trucks.
Now even the country's best roads are ruined, and travel through the narrow lanes and paths is generally impossible. Some villages that used to be a day's walk or more from the nearest highway have not been heard from since the quake.
Bhaktapur was once a great royal court city; grand palaces and temples survived there for more than a thousand years. They're not there any more.
(This is a guest post by Ted, the third in a series of three posts from Houston, Texas.)
When Hole in the Clouds sent me to Houston as a travel correspondent, the timing couldn't have been more perfect; my business associate Robert Fox happened to be getting married in Houston that very same weekend.
The wedding chapter of Rob and Shawna's story begins back in the winter of 2013, at the NASA Johnson Space Center. The two of them had flown from their home in D.C. to Texas, to spend some time with Shawna's parents. Unbeknownst to Shawna, Rob had been carrying a ring around in his pocket for the past few days.
At the space center, Shawna found a cool rocket and set up her camera on a timer, the way tourists do. But when she came back to pose for the snapshot, Rob dropped to his knee. The surprise on her face in the picture above was genuine.
This past Saturday they were married in Texas, in a wedding with a theme. The theme was brunch.
Shawna is a senior producer for NBC's Meet the Press, and there were lots of Washington media types at the wedding, including some of NBC's White House producers. This is how they party:
To help the media types feel at home during the moments between their tweets and e-mails, there was a newspaper for them to read, The Brunch In Love Dispatch (Hot Topic: "Washington, DC, Couple Weds in Texas"), with little NBC logos on each page.
The proposal was in Texas. The wedding was in Texas. According to the Brunch In Love Dispatch, the bride is "a Texas girl with the tattoo to prove it."
And yes, the bride wore cowgirl boots.
(This is a guest post by Ted, the second in a series of three posts from Houston, Texas.)
When I was a little boy growing up in the Bible Belt my mother told me something I will never forget. "There is no god" she said. "But that is a secret. You must remember not to tell anyone else. They will get very mad at you if you do."
There are many types of atheists; some are as intolerant of other ideas as the people I had to keep my atheist secret from. I have even heard atheists say there would be no war or oppression if there were no religion. Given the history of atheists like Stalin and Mao I find this belief a bit, well, faith based. Point being, I am a devout atheist, but not an evangelical or fundamentalist one. My mother doesn't raise intolerant atheists.
The preceding paragraphs were a bit of a circuitous path to lead up to the following short sentence: I don't mind going to church.
While in Texas, my host Tia, whom you met in yesterday's Good Morning, invited me to attend her church. Tia is on a "prayer team" and people lined up to pray with them. I snuck some glances at the people praying with Tia and her team. There were hugs and there were tears, a lot of emotions packed in to the few short minutes each person had with a member of the prayer team. I could tell those prayers help a lot of people get through the week.
Friends have taken me to many houses of worship all over the country. Some favorites were a black upper class church in downtown Washington, DC (I liked the women's hats) and a white working class church in rural Alabama (I liked the banjos). I have seen many churches, but never one like Tia's. The sheer size was mind boggling. The band had at least twenty instruments and the choir was the largest I have ever seen. There were thousands of people dancing and singing and praying and rejoicing.
Pictured up top is your correspondent and the church, before all the seats were filled with worshippers.
It is true what they say, things are bigger in Texas.
Not everything is bigger in Texas though. Little girls attending church are still little girls attending church. There is, however, one difference between little girls attending church in Texas and little girls attending church elsewhere. Cowgirl boots.
(This is a guest post by Ted. Since my mother is helping my grandmother move, and will not have time to write Good Mornings for ya'll, she has handed me the keys to her weblog. I will try not to wreck it.
With possession of the keys, and a full tank of gas, I decided to head on down to the Lone Star State. This is the first in a series of three posts from Houston, Texas. The next two posts will be about cowgirl boots. This is Texas after all.)
I happened upon the Houston Harry Potter Meetup Group's Owl Decorating Contest while enjoying a Sunday afternoon walking around Discovery Green, a lovely park in Houston.
The picture above contains the entire Houston Harry Potter Meetup Group (or at least the ones that showed up for the Owl Decorating Contest). I stood on top of a picnic table to take this picture and asked everyone to hold up their owls. My friend Tia, who hosted me in Houston, is also in the picture. She can be identified by her beautiful yellow dress and lack of owl.
I asked who was judging the competition and learned that the sole judge was Alyssa, head of the Gryffindor House. She is pictured below wearing an awesome shirt. Because she was the judge she was not allowed to enter the contest, but she did decorate an owl anyway.
Tia and I were offered owls to decorate, but we declined the offer.
Laura, the Deputy Headmistress, requested that I send her the picture I took of the group. I did so, via text message. Later in the evening I sent Laura another text message asking who won the contest and was informed that Robin was the winner.
Laura directed me to the group's Facebook page, which contained a picture of Robin's winning entrant:
We here at Hole In The Clouds would like to congratulate Robin on her big win. That is indeed a nice owl.
The subject of the portrait is Clayhorn Martin, a Harlem street preacher who had gone barefoot ever since the day in his youth when God told him to shed his shoes and walk on holy ground. Till the day he died, he walked the streets with his tambourine, shouting to the world that God dwells in every single person, not in church buildings or special dignitaries.
Martin was a homeless man, a neighborhood character. In this formal studio portrait, photographer James Van Der Zee focused not so much on his outward condition as on his internal seriousness and faith. In other words, the scene he set for his camera aimed to take Preacher Martin at his word, seeking to show the higher purpose within him.
Martin had been born a slave in Virginia in 1851; he died homeless on the street in 1937. Van Der Zee and other artists of the Harlem Renaissance raised money to give him a proper sendoff, a funeral attended by five hundred or more of his neighbors, his flock.
Lucy, a sixteen-year-old eleventh-grader at Toronto's Etobicoke School of the Arts, has at least three claims to fame. First, her photo won the gold medal in the international division of the annual Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. And second, we can proudly claim her as family: her Aunt Cecelia is our sister-in-law.
Finally–and we confess we do not get many opportunities these days to bring this up–this here blogger also won an award in this same competition, about forty-eleven years ago. We didn't get a gold medal, though, or even a silver medal; we won $25 and a ball point pen as some kind of a runner-up in the story-writing division.
So we have sort of a personal reason to be extra-extra proud of Lucy. And we also really like this thing of doing a selfie with your eyes closed.
Many ruined buildings were still propped up then, still awaiting demolition. Some repairs had been begun, some new construction was under way, but the city's main shopping district had been displaced into a new popup mall made out of shipping containers.
Christ Church Cathedral, shown here, once dominated the city's central square. As of this writing, no decision has yet been announced concerning whether to repair or replace or simply demolish what's left of the structure. The new popup Cardboard Cathedral a few blocks away has not officially been designated as a replacement.