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June 5, 2008 / calebdresser

Afternoon haze

Its late afternoon in Los Banos. Little brown birds hop on the empty softball field. My shoes are off, hairy little pink toes just protruding into view from behind the laptop screen. We just had the closing ceremony for the rice production short course – speeches and smiles and fine looking green leather diplomas. Tonight we have a farewell dinner, and if past experience here is anything to go by, it promises to be a good time.

I should probably clip my toenails. Getting a bit neglected, all the way down there. On the court between the dormitories, a lone basketball player is practicing for the evening match. Plop, plop, he shoots and misses. His friend in blue watches from the side. Friends from the course walk by. Idah, Sita, Janelle – Indonesia, Maylasia, Hawaii. So little time to understand what life can mean to someone else, barely time for a few hints to slip through barriers of culture and language. It will have to be enough for now.

Ahn and Ku come outside. They are taking pictures with the cloud-hung volcano in the background. They walk closer – Anh takes a picture of Ku standing next to me, we talk about karaoke and journals and airplane flights, the fun we’ve had in bars and beaches across Luzon, and they move on. Wandering, relaxed in still air, the country’s humid embrace. They fly to Korea on Saturday. I hope I see them again.

A crowd on the court now, jerseys brilliant in evening light. Plop, plop. Happy people, a place of peace. Beyond the fence, laborers walk slowly home along the long-abandoned railroad tracks. Some of the children run a push-cart sometimes, but I have not seen it today.

The course is over, lessons still sinking in. The problems we face, in rice and beyond, are unquestionably immense, their intimidation magnified by their complexity. Yet I am happy, more hopeful now than I have ever been. I have met people who care and will do much; I count them as friends. I have seen solutions. Perhaps we will yet rise to the challenge.

They are at play on the softball field now, sweaty bodies shining in the splinters of sunlight that come through the western tree line. Sun showers tickle the trees near my bench; the time comes for dinner. In thirty-six hours I head west, a short hop to Bangkok and a longer flight past Burma and Bangladesh and then across the flat plains to Delhi. I have a lot to do before that, though – stuff my pack with food, recharge the medical kit… and say a lot of goodbyes. Too soon, though I know it is time to keep moving.

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