March for Science, DC

You know what rocks?

Science.

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This Saturday I marched in a very wet March for Science in DC.

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…can’t wait to be back in DC for the People’s Climate March next weekend.

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On Sunday, the story sign version 3.0 made its debut at the Smithsonian Earth Optimism‘s Teen Only event.

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— fresh cardboard + a silver shoelace + black Sharpie = GOOD TO GO!

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It was an honor to be in a room with some awesome conservation leaders and scientists.

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I recorded stories from eight teens, covering everything from mass extinctions to permafrost melting, ocean acidification to water quality issues.

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O is for Optimism

The kids are alright.

Happy Earth Day, world.

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Bangkok: Puppets, Bicycles, Spirit Shrines, and Front Flips

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Just over a week ago, Charlotte and I left Aotearoa New Zealand for Thailand. After four months of trying every possible boat option we could think of (as a passenger on a cargo ship, working on a cruise ship, working on a yacht, etc.), nothing was working.

The plane ticket to Bangkok was cheap. I packed my bicycle in a cardboard box. We flew.

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Airports are for poetry.

(Here’s the final stanzas of one of my favorite poems by Naomi Shihab Nye: “Gate A-4”)

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It was a strange feeling, being on a plane after having avoided air travel for so long. My feet hurt. The air was so dry. Cargo ships are loud, but airplanes are louder.

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Two flights, an 8-hour delay in Melbourne Airport, & a taxi ride later, we caught the sunrise in our open arms… and then promptly fell asleep.

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A friend from my hometown is kindly letting us stay at her flat in Sukhumvit. We’re way up on the 16th floor, witness to power lines // roofs and trees.

Out of frame: taller buildings // bright bright lights // loud loud traffic // rain // thunder // every building has its spirit shrine.

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Judging from observations, the spirits like to drink red Fanta.

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People bow at the spirit shrines as they pass. I have so much more to learn about the place of religion in Thai life, but I love what little I have picked up so far.

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Spirit trees, like this one in Chinatown, are protected from being cut down.

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I’m starting to get in the habit of drawing things to give my writing brain a break. You can see more sketches at drawingsbydevi.tumblr.com.

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Up on the balcony, Charlotte and I ate our first dragon fruit. It tasted like a beetroot walked into a kiwi fruit––savory and delicious.

Then we started the quest to find Charlotte a touring bicycle. I’ll be writing more about this in the future; the saga is ongoing. After a few false starts, we’re nearly there!

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Vrrroooooooom. Look out, world, there’s a singer on wheels soon to join the ranks of touring cyclists doing cool shit. Rumor has it that Charlotte has started a theater blog, too…

Speaking of which, if anyone knows of venues in SE Asia / beyond that would like to host Charlotte to sing, do be in touch 🙂 Best bet is if there’s a pianist or other instrumentalist to accompany her.

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Three things to know about Bangkok:

ONE: It’s hot. Well yes duh, Devi, it’s hot.

This is not Boston heat, folks. It’s not Fiji heat, either. It’s hotter, even, than most days in Tuvalu (plus more traffic, more population, and greater distances between places, so moving in Bangkok means reckoning with CARS, MOTORCYCLES, TUK TUKS, TAXIS, PURELY DECORATIVE CROSSWALKS, NONEXISTENT SIDEWALKS, EVERYTHING). Step outside in the middle of the day in Bangkok and you’ll be dripping with sweat within minutes.

Bangkok heat is the kind of heat that is exhausting to walk in.

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TWO: Crossing the street is an adventure. When I say “an adventure”,  I mean: it’s stressful: a full-body kind of stress. Pedestrians don’t have right of way: cars and motorcycles do. There are a few pedestrian overpasses, thankfully.

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THREE: The only drinking water is bottled water. More on this later, too. Having access to safe drinking  water that flows from a tap (or from the ground) is a huge privilege. I wish it didn’t have to be that way.

FOUR: Everything is wrapped in plastic. I’m doing my best to refuse as much plastic as possible, but the stuff is everywhere. Drinks come with straws. Bananas in the 7-11 come wrapped in plastic, and then the cashier puts that bundle inside another plastic bag for you to carry out of the store.

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The saddest bit, as we all know, Is that all that plastic goes to the water, and then into the sea. We’re on track to have more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050.

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I met up with Madeleine Recknagel, an activist working to change the culture of plastic use in Bangkok. She’s a cool cat. You can learn more about her work on her blog.

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Thanks for showing us around some of the temples, canalas, and back alleys, Madeleine!

SPEAKING OF MEETING UP WITH COOL FOLKS:

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That’s Li Murphy at left, and Awais Hussain at right, both Harvard Class of 2015. Li co-founded Harvard Undergraduate Beekeepers. Awais was head of Harvard’s spoken word poetry group Speak Out Loud, and also does awesome things in physics and philosophy.

We went trampolining and had a yummy dinner at a night market. Awais did his first front flip. Li told me a story about water buffalo.

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collecting stories at the night market — the cardboard sign lives!!!

AND OH MY GOODNESS, so much has been happening that I almost forgot:

Charlotte and I visited Sema Thai Marionette, a puppetry company dedicated to working with underprivileged children and doing research into Thai puppetry traditions.

We went to their morning performance of a show about the Rambutan Prince at a school in town, and then hung out at their puppetry workshop for the rest of the day.

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The team of puppeteers helped me translate my cardboard sign into Thai…

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…so now I’m ready to collect stories on the street. Thank you so much, Sema Thai Marionette! It was so wonderful to get to know the whole troop, and to spend some time with the puppets, too.

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Charlotte and I loved the bicycling marionettes––

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… the pedals even moved! 🙂

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More soon, lovely people of the internet. For now, I’ll leave you with some street art from the neighborhood. Wheels on wheels.

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Over and out,

Devi in Bangkok

Mer-Cyclist Update from Fitzroy Island

This sea-goddess in training puked three times in the first 12 hours. Bumpy seas. I felt like a deflated vegetable.

Praise Poseidon & Sedna — my stomach has since settled. We caught and ate a big fish. I’m learning the art of surrendering to motion. My crew member Jenny Haldiman was outstanding and stroked my head until I fell asleep.

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the horizon line is an accurate representation of how bumpy the ocean is. wheeeeee! 

Everything is brand new.

Babe the guitar is a life saver.

Early morning swims make me feel so so alive.

I’m now well enough to have a job: CHIEF DISH WASHER / SOUX GALLEY WENCH. Bada boom. I love being useful.

Big love,
Devi

p.s. If you like my work and want to keep me going, please hop on over to www.patreon.com/devi_lockwood to pop a tip in the proverbial jar. Big love!

A Poem on Demand

Today I met a storyteller who would tell me a story about climate change––but only in exchange for a poem.

She brought me a pen and a pad of paper. I sat on her porch by the sea with a cup of tea.

I was nervous. Then this poem happened.

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AT CLAIRVIEW

The wind does not touch
the blue plastic swing
hanging from the tree’s
horizontal limb.
The grass here is a
sponge. Sometimes
the sea rises &
sometimes she falls.
When the moon rises
(in the east, of course)
the stories hang
thick like rope––
chain––orchid eyes.
I wish I were
strong, absorbent,
able to churn
& let anything
wash over my body.
The horizon––blue––
unhinges me.
Watch as I greet
what comes.

Massages and Flowers

nukuloasunsetI dig my elbows and into her shoulders and the space between her clavicle, focusing the whole of my energy on relieving the stress. The lavender oil slacks between my fingers and her skin.

Suzanna’s 60-year-old back is tight from caring for her 80-year-old mother who is bound to a wheelchair. “I lift her from the bed into the chair, from the chair to the toilet, and back all over again,” she sighs. “It’s a lot.”

Suzanna lies out on top of my Therm-a-rest and exhales “nn-nn” when I push my thumbs on the knot directly.

“Is this okay?”

I knead and press until something in her loosens.

My mother taught me to give massages when I was eight years old. I remember practicing for the first time on my grandmother, how soft her face looked after even the simplest of backrubs. Since then, massage has been one of my favorite gifts to give––all I need is my hands and someone in need (oil is a luxury).

Ili is next. She takes off her shirt and lies facedown, tilting her neck to the right. I unhook the four clasps on her bra. Ili has three tattoos on her upper back, all in black ink: a skull with two flowers coming out of the ear, the word LOVE, and a line about an inch long without explanation or context.

After the massage, Ili takes my hand. “You come?”

I nod and shrug a sulu around my hips. We follow the footpath to the next village over, Levuka-i-Gau, her home. Mango seeds litter the path between. She points up to the mango trees where the fruit is just starting to get ripe. I ask Suzanna when they will be ready to eat.

“Not yet. Soon.”

We pass two bulls grazing in the tall grass. I put my pointer fingers on either side of my head, bow my neck down low, and stick out my rear, imitating the bull’s proud stride, defraying any tension by making fun of myself.

“Eeeo! Yes!” Ili shouts, exuberant.

I swivel my hips, stop walking, back it up, get low, pop up, vogue, freestyle with my wrists arching high to the sky, and throw in a few rib isolations for good measure.

Ili laughs her tall laugh and joins in. “Hop hop! We hop hop!”

Knowing how to dance (or at least being uninhibited in doing so) has gotten me far while traveling. What I can’t communicate verbally, I can say with my body. Plus, it just feels so good to move, to cut the persistent tropical languor with a goofy groove, to let my body run free.

I follow Ili off the main path as she takes my hand and leads me into her village. Bright roosters and peeping chicks peck the ground. The passage snakes between a cluster of tin houses. We wind our way to the water/shore/seawall where children splash and swim in high tide.

Ili’s husband chops wood with a long-necked axe. She greets him with a warm smile and insists that he puts his axe down for a moment to shake my hand. The smell of wood smoke and curry wafts from a fire and an accompanying big pot.

Ili reaches for my hand and we walk further up the hill to meet Suzanna’s mother. Suzanna wheels her into the main room of the house.

“Take off your shoes,” Ili reminds me. “Tombe. Sit.”

I take a seat on a squishy foam couch against the wall. Suzanna pushes the chair over a woven mat and as close to me as the wheels will come.

Her mother looks me in the eye and says a sentence in Fijian. I look to Suzanna, the question in my glance.

“She says she can’t walk.”

I touch her mother’s shoulder and say how strong she is. The radio hums away in Fijian, the rhythm of the words both familiar and strange. We hold each other’s eyes for a second, saying everything and nothing at once.

“We go?” Ili says.

I thank Suzanna and her mother––“Vinaka vaku levu!”––and follow Ili out the door and up a hill. We pass a group of Fijian men who lean against the trunks of tall coconut trees, passing a cigarette between their lips.

Ili guides me into the commissary where she introduces me to Lucy. It takes a moment for my eyes to adjust from the brightness of outside. Lucy and I exchange a handshake and a kiss on the cheek. Then Lucy busies herself putting things into a plastic shopping bag. The sound of it rustles in the cavernous room.

With my eyes finally acclimated, I look around to take stock of the room. A gaudy, golden-lettered Santa Claus sign wishes people who exit a Merry Christmas. Two pairs of cleats sit lonely on a high shelf. Boxes on boxes of chicken flavored ramen noodles lean on each other in the room’s far corner. There’s a mug full of packaged toothbrushes near the cash.

Lucy hands the shopping bag to me: a package of butter biscuits and tropical juice mix.

“I didn’t bring any money––” I protest, but Lucy waves her hands nonchalantly, insisting that I take the gift. I bow my head in thanks.

I follow Lucy and Ili into an adjacent room that houses woven mats, a Hollywood-esque depiction of a blonde Eve reaching for the forbidden fruit, and a shelf with seashells of various sizes and colors. Lucy calls her daughter in from the kitchen and asks her something in rapid-fire Fijian that I have no hope of understanding.

In the meantime, Lucy takes out a sewing box and unravels a spool of brown thread. In one swift motion she fixes the needle’s eye on one end.

Lucy’s daughter returns minutes later with two handfuls of yellow flowers. She takes a moment to look me from head to toe, and then sits down next to her mother, biting off the end of the flowers and handing them to Lucy, who threads them onto the string, one by one.

Bua. That’s how we call the flowers,” Ili explains, lifting the completed necklace up and over my head. “It smells good, mm?”

I take a deep breath and close my eyes. I smell sweet and feminine. Ili puts one of the bua flowers behind my ear, too, for good measure. I feel gorgeous.

Lucy calls her eldest son in from the yard where he was smoking and gives him a short sentence of instruction. He jogs out of the room and reenters a few minutes later with a coconut that I can only presume he has climbed up a tree to fetch. Lucy’s daughter finds a sharp knife in the kitchen and hacks off the coconut’s top in three bits. She hands me the coconut to drink.

Now not only do I smell sweet, but my palate is full of it, too.

Ili and I dance and laugh the whole way home.

Such grace, the act of giving. Hands to hands.

Photo on 11-6-14 at 6.43 PM #2