Tuesday, May 16, 2006

the crow and the homeless woman

sarah and i went to green lake for a walk on friday. the weather was perfect for a walk- and i should preface this whole entry by saying, if you're not in seattle right now, then somebody needs to let you know about the great weather. yall all think that seattle is nothing but rain and cold, but you are wrong. no place on earth has summers the way seattle has summers. --seattle is summer.

from today's weather posting: Seattle, WA 81°

and with this little picture right after it:

but don't get me wrong. seattle aint Louisiana. (i don't like seattle as much as i like home.) and seattle aint Laos either. (the padek in Laos is a lot better than what you get in the stores here.) anyway, seattle was giving us good weather for walking, and the best place for walking is green lake, and so we began our little trek around the lake. well, we hadn't gone but maybe 3 minutes when we noticed this crow on the side of the path. i don't like crows, but this one was kinda interesting cause it had its head down inside a plastic grocery bag. i thought the crow was trying to get at some of the food in there, but on closer inspection - its head was stuck. crows are not dumb birds, (just noisy and dirty) and this one apparently had gotten a bag of garbage out of the garbage can (the kind with the push-open lid). well, in the process, the crow had gotten its head stuck in the handle of the plastic bag. i kinda laughed at the whole thing, (i mean, it looked kinda funny, and plus, i don't like crows) but when we got a little closer, the crow flew off over the lake with the bag still twisted around its head and then came back, landing close to the path; so, i guess i started to get a little more concerned about the crow at that point. well, maybe not just then; i think i laughed some more at the crow as it tried to fly off a another 2 or 3 times. it did look kinda funny - flying off over the lake with a QFC plastic bag of garbage hanging on its neck. looked like edgar allen poe's version of the stork or something. sarah and i had this moment of indecision - should we keep walking, or should we stop and help. (actually, i don't think i was planning on helping; i think i just wanted to laugh at the crow a little longer while it tried to get its head outa that bag handle.) but when you stop to watch something, a crowd will gather... and that's what happened. a couple of other people stopped - and an elderly man came up to us and said he'd been watching the crow from the front seat of his car for some time. well, we all know what happened to kitty genovese, and i thought about that, so at sarah's prompting, i stepped into action. (and for those who don't know about kitty:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitty_Genovese ).

leaving sarah in the company of the elderly man, i joined forces with a woman in a purple jump suit, and we stalked the crow through the parking lot, across the street and into a small grassy area (where the infamous feral rabbits of woodland park can be found grazing right before they run out into the street and get squished by passing cars... for more info on this: http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/262159_rabbits08.html )

me and purple jumpsuit lady had minimal success. i removed my black fleece jacket and tried to throw it over the crow (at sarah's suggestion), but it didn't work; my jacket caught some wind and came falling back at my feet. by this time, the crow flew back across the street, spilling some of the garbage out of its bag. the crow tried to fly into a tree, but it was clearly tiring, so it made an emergency landing by the sidewalk where another man and his wife had joined our crow rescue team. this man was armed with woolly blanket and a pretty good sense of stealth. as i approached from the back, he came at the crow's front, and it gently succumed to the blackness of my fleece jacket. however, by this time we hadn't only collected a crowd of onlookers, but a large number of crows were over our heads squawking and making a racket, what crows do best.

we worked quickly to free the crow; the stealth man and jumpsuit woman held the crow as i pulled back the jacket - and sarah appeared outa nowhere with a big pair of scissors (the elderly man had them in his car; do people normally carry scissors around in their cars?) so i used them to cut through the plastic handle, (it was up under the crow's feathers, and it would've been hard to remove without scissors,) and crow flew off to join his friends.

i left the crowd after a group hug and rejoined sarah and the elderly man. i was feeling kinda good about the deed we'd done, and i even felt a little better about myself. (and although i don't like crows, i liked them a little more after saving one from grocery bag death).

well, on saturday, sarah was nice enough to let me borrow her car while mine was in the shop, and so she and i were together again... this time we came across a homeless woman. i had already had words with this woman an hour before; after coming across the street from the mechanic shop, i came face to face with her - and she looked me in the eyes and yelled, "YOU MURDERED HER!" i kinda laughed (what is up with me laughing at people in distress?) but her accusation was kinda out there, and well... i laughed... and half-mumbled something to her about her medications. she didn't seem aware that i'd said anything and pronounced (even more emphatically) "YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO KILL HER 5 TIMES!"

so when sarah showed up, i was already feeling kinda concerned about the whole thing. the woman stared at us on the sidewalk, hurled some accusations with a wave of her hand, and then sped off down the street and around the corner. i didn't know what to do. and even though i stood there and watched, a crowd wasn't gathering to motivate me to action. was she really homeless? was she where she shouldn't have been? is this is everyday for her, or she is in danger?

man... crows are easier: bag's on its head; get it off. a mentally ill homeless woman is a harder call... and supposedly i am the mental health clinician, but i was at a loss as to whether i should let it go, or call the police.

i let it go. and i even let it go when i saw her again at 9 pm that night, scurrying down my street towards the baseball field. i jogged in her direction for a bit, just to see where she was headed... but finally, i stopped, feeling a little heavy of heart.

i watched her for a moment longer as she walked further into the dark, then i turned around towards my apartment, and slid my cell phone back into my pocket.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

only 14,400 kip a pill...

an article on meth use in Laos...

Laos battles new foe in war on drugs
By Chawadee Nualkhair Sat May 13, 9:11 PM ET

VIENTIANE (Reuters) - Poverty-stricken Laos has some way to go to catch up with its more developed neighbors, but it has still managed to import the same problems facing far richer countries.
Fresh from declaring victory in its "war on opium," Laos' communist rulers now face the threat of growing methamphetamine use among its youth.
The unceremoniously named "Treatment and Vocational Training of Drug Users Cen
ter," just south of the capital, Vientiane, is a case in point.
Here, at Laos's biggest drug rehabilitation center, 565 Lao have come from all over the country. Almost all are addicted to methamphetamines.
Malee, 15, looks like a typical teenager in red Mickey Mouse T-shirt and ponytail. But she has been arrested twice, both times for smoking speed she bought with money stolen from her parents.
"The minute I got any money, I would run out and spend it on drugs," she said, estimating she blew the equivalent of $100 a week on drugs in a country where three-quarters of people live on less than $2 a day.
"I tried everything I could, even heroin. My friends would bring me these drugs and all our worries would be gone. All I ever wanted to do was get out of the life I had."
Methamphetamines represent part of a growing trend in Laos, the next scourge to test the government's "drug-free" resolve at a time when it could easily slide back into more opium use, says the
United Nations.
"Prevention and control of trafficking and abuse of heroin and methamphetamines are some of the next challenges that face the government. Laos is at a critical juncture," said Leik Boonwaat of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
"Without urgent appropriate assistance the successes already achieved could be easily reversed. Increased, trafficking of heroin and methamphetamine will lead to increased crime, corruption, violence, misery and poverty," he said.

Unlike opium, which urban Lao see as an "old man's drug," methamphetamines -- which cost around $1.50 a tablet -- have found favor with youngsters who want to be alert, confident and slim.
First emerging in the mid-1990s, methamphetamines are also a harder drug to fight off than opium, which often leaves users listless after an initial rush of euphoria, said center director Ugaow Gaowarawong.
"Methamphetamines are much more scary," he said. "It messes with your head and it's hard to shake. Opium is mainly for minority groups and old people. It's not for the young people who want to go out."
Once the world's third biggest producer of heroin -- derived from the resin of opium poppies -- Laos declared itself free of poppy cultivation in February 2006.
It was able to accomplish this through a battery of measures including agreements with farmers who pledged to stop growing poppies or risk seeing their fields destroyed.
"It's a carrot-and-stick approach," said one aid official who asked not to be identified. "But we don't have enough carrot, we have a lot of stick."
The measures appear to be working -- and with little of the trauma that came with Thailand's "war on drugs," which resulted in the extrajudicial deaths of more than 2,500 people.
Now, 1,800 hectares of land are used to cultivate poppies, down from 6,600 hectares a year earlier and 26,800 hectares in 1998, according to the UNODC.
The average price of opium has risen 139 percent to $521 a kg from the same period a year ago, reflecting its scarcity, the UNODC said.
Former users have mostly resigned themselves to going elsewhere for relief.
"I used to use it when I had aches and pains," said Sio Diah, 70, sewing sequins on a piece of embroidery at a Hmong village north of Vientiane. "I don't use it anymore, of course. I go to the drug store instead."

Still, the lack of a sustainable livelihood for farmers could induce as many as half of the former opium producers to return to planting poppies, the UNODC's Leik said.
Methamphetamine use could also grow as traffickers move beyond youngsters to other sections of the population in both urban and rural areas, he said.
However, drug rehabilitation officials are optimistic the success in tackling opium will be duplicated against methamphetamines, pointing out that the country's poverty may actually end up saving it.
"In the past two years, we had 700-800 people here, most addicted to methamphetamines," said center director Ugaow. "Now we have around 500 so far this year, much less. It's expensive and hard to find. That is helpful."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

4:00 am in the morning.

i am back in seattle, survived the airplane ride; the layover in korea was very difficult however.

i woke up at 4:00 am in the morning. but my schedule is messed up right now, so i guess that can be expected. i came into work early - seemed like the best answer. so i am here. thanks to everyone for your emails and comments! the trip was a lot of fun, and i've had a lot of fun with the blog.

and thanks to jane for the link to this blog:


ryan has been missing in Laos for some time now. i am praying for the best for him and his family.