Sunday, September 8, 2019

Qatar: With Extraordinaire Flair--Elias's Art Exhibit

Me: So why do you like to paint, Elias?
Elias: Because it brings me peace.

When his brother asked Elias for some advice recently, he replied, "Be calm. Be patient. Be still. That's what happens when I paint."

"I want the house to smell like art"--Elias Shumway

Anny Ku,  @AnnyKuartworks is a Taiwanese-Canadian artist living in Qatar who was the teacher who helped so much with Elias's artwork and to get him ready to have this exhibit. I have to say she taught us both how to see parts of the world we had not seen before and bring that beauty to the canvas.  They worked for more than two years to bring many of these paintings to life--chronicling Elias's life with paintings. 

More than one and a half years ago I met an Qatari artist named Adel at the Fire Station Gallery in Doha, Qatar  He perceived that my son, Elias, had autism. We became friends. One day in an off-hand way, he mentioned that perhaps Elias could possibly have an exhibit at the museum. I tucked the thought in my mind and brought the spark of the idea to Anny. 

I consider it a miracle and dream come true that we were able to make his exhibit a reality. It happened to be during the month of April, which is Autism Awareness Month. I will let the video and pictures speak for themselves. Enjoy! I continue to repeatedly learn that children with special needs can not only charge our perspectives, but our world. I am blessed to live with one!

Thanks to Abraham Younes for making this video of the special Opening Night for Elias's art exhibit. It shows Elias giving a talk, introducing Anny Ku, and then Miriam who is the director of the Ontario School for Special Education in Doha, Qatar speaks about how Elias and I taught art at the school for children with disabilities.

The Doha Strings with Elias and my husband, Joseph

All of us together for the Opening Gala night. I appreciated these amazing musicians for collaborating with art to make such an incredible evening. 

The poster for the exhiit

The invitations to the exhibit

Chronicling of an artistic journey for Elias--all the paintings that were in the exhibit

Getting ready for the exhibit

Elias explaining his pictures

Giving a tour to some Chinese children with their moms before the Opening Night Gala.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Rays of Summer Heaven

Mother looked up to to Dad as we all chattered and sang the old songs as he drove down the road, and then she thoughtfully said, "This is the happiest moment in the world right now."
 --Frank and Ernestine Galbraith in Cheaper by the Dozen

It has always seemed to me, ever since early childhood, amid all the commonplaces of life, I was very near to a kingdom of ideal beauty. Between it and me hung only a thin veil. I could never draw it quite aside, but sometimes a wind fluttered it and I caught a glimpse of the enchanting realm beyond--only a glimpse--but those glimpses always made life worthwhile. 
L. M. Montgomery in The Alpine Path, the Story of My Career, 1917

This is the day that my 17 year old son who has autism was asked to drive a truck in an Idaho field while other teenage boys bailed the hay. The man in the forefront has three adopted sons with autism. When he knew we were coming to help him bail the hay, he said, "I really want Elias to drive the truck. He can do it." Our good friend stayed in the cab to teach him how to navigate the field. Brian later said, "It was a landmark day of my summer." We all could not stop smiling for about a day after that little drive.
The summer was filled with some new mountains to ascend, but always on the way there are some pockets of joy hidden in the bushes. I continually relearn that sometimes the path to new terrains can surprise you. That is what happened to me on this day in rural Idaho. Although I have been the traversing the "autism mountain" (Blog on My Autism Mountain) for awhile now, I still get unexpected new views. When the wise farmer asked if Elias could drive the truck, I had a long pause. I thought to myself that he could not possibly do it. But only a few minutes later, with the loving mentorship of two remarkable men, Elias was helping to do a farm chore that needed to get done. 

As the other boys loaded the hay and called out to Elias, complimenting him, there was an undeniable and pervasive feeling of incredible love. We all were serving a rugged, wise, and good farmer who needed some help. Yet, he was helping us too. Without his land, his need to get the bails of hay loaded, and his insistence that a teenage boy with autism could drive his truck, the day of heaven would never have happened. 

Yesterday as Elias and I were talking while we swam, he spontaneously said, "I am having a great life, Mom. I have a good community in my life." I was stumped on what to say. And then between strokes, we talked about the flow of people who have come on this autism trek. As the enlarging people all over this world paraded before my eyes, some tears mixed with the chlorine water. There have been so many rescuers on this mountain with us. But sometimes it takes a heavenly day to begin remembering the faces that have brought other "thin space" days to us. 

So a question, "How can we have more glimpses of heaven in our days?" Remembering this day and all others that have pushed me higher, I want them to be more abundant in all seasons and places.

Happiness in getting a job done well--plus helping a friend who needed it. 

Feeling triumphant

Another group with my van pulling some more hay

Loading the hay off of the truck

A day of sweaty satisfaction--of giving service, feeling brotherly comradery, and knowing loving mentorship. A summer day to never be forgotten.

Some of the bailers...

The healing balm at the end of the service project: to hold some goats that had been born four days before.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Beijing Hutongs (Old streets and alleys)

Strolling down the hutong in Beijing brought me back to my time thirty years ago. Tree-lined hutongs lead into alleys with courtyard gardens that have been there for centuries.
To know a fish, go to the water. To know a bird's song, go to the mountains. --Chinese proverb

One of the wonders of the world for many centuries has been the Great Wall, that stretches about 13, 170 miles across China. It was built during the Ming dynasty and took about 200 years to build. Of course, the Great Wall is stupendous, but there are other walls that are a must see if you go to Beijing: they are the walls of the hutongs. What are hutongs? They are alleys and narrow streets that connect traditional courtyard residences to one another. Within those walls or courtyards, communities and families lived for centuries. You can go down one street and turn into an ally where there are sometimes six or seven doors going into different residences. Going to the hutong area of Beijing is peeking into what urban Chinese life was like for centuries. People lived close together, working, eating, cooking, gossiping, and sharing their lives together. Today is the same.

Recently I was able to return to Beijing, a place I lived in 1989 for about six months. I briefly went back in 2009, but Beijing is always transforming and reinventing itself--with new crevices to explore. The Winter Olympics will come in 2022, and the city is vibrant with constant new construction of high rise buildings, shopping malls, and businesses. Yet, one aspect of Beijing life has fortunately remained: the hutong neighborhoods. I wish that many of them had not been demolished in favor of modern high rises. But luckily, there are still some left. To me, they are the heart of Beijing--where you can feel the pulse of what a neighborhood feels like and eat all kinds of Chinese street food. You can even go on a hutong tour.

In 1989 riding my bike in the hutongs.
I was surprised once you turn into an ally, you could be in 1989 or even 1889. The May peonies and roses were in full bloom, and you could peek into walled gardens through a Chinese gate or door. Sometimes the area of the hutong has been called the same name for centuries and the family has inhabited it for generations. They have names like "Sheep Market" or "Willow Tree Well" or attributes like "Happy." Sometimes they are named after an emperor's barber or another such name. More than anything, the Beijing hutongs remind you why it is critical to preserve the past in a large, pulsating city. Every city needs a place to return to in their memories.

Here are ten hutong neighborhoods for you to explore in Beijing:

 Nanluoguxiang (South Gong and Drum Lane)
 Skewed Tobacco Pouch Street (Yandai Xiejie)
 Mao'er Hutong 
 Guozijian Street
 Liulichang Cultural Street 
 Jinyu Hutong 
 Dongjiamin Lane 
 Xijiamin Lane
 Ju'er Hutong 
    Badna Hutong 

Thanks, Beijing for taking me back in my own memory bank. When I lived there in 1989, riding around the hutongs on my bike was my favorite thing to do. There was and is always some new street food to try or another glimpse into Chinese life. You might say many of the Chinese walls come down in the hutongs.

Entrance to the Nanluoguxiang hutong, probably the most famous one. It is now a place where there are about 150 stores, shops and restaurants.

An old garden and residence turned into a restaurant

Walking down the narrow alleys, with the doors going into old courtyards. The hutongs show a close neighborhood where various families have lived in close proximity for centuries.

Peeking into one of the doors that opens into a residence and courtyard. Some of the larger courtyards have been sectioned and divided so that more people can live there.

Another ally to get lost in the hutongs

There is always a leader of the hutong alley--taking care of neighborhood disagreements and problems. Their picture is shown on each ally.

A hutong neighborhood market

An old bike that carries loads on it. I remember my little family in 1989 riding on the back of one of these transport bikes.

2019 hutong

                            Street food and shops in the hutong

A bautze shop, a large dumpling with meat or beans inside. They are very cheap, and are a traditional northern Chinese food.

So you want a new umbrella?

Cold air keeping the fruit fresh to sell

Eating on the street in the hutongs. Everyone is trying some kind of noodle, dumpling, or rice. There are relatively few desserts because Chinese people are not traditionally as fond of sweets, like Westerners. 

Having said that, here is a candy shop.

Fans for sale...

Combs for sale...

A street vendor selling fried rice on the street in front of the shops.

A Prague and Eastern Europe dessert sold in one shop. It shows how much times have changed since I was here in 1989.
Pictures on the entrance to the hutong of the traditional hutong

Pictures of the courtyards that have now been mostly subdivided into stores, shops, and residences.

                   Pictures from 1989 when we were here in the hutongs (You can see the hutongs brought back many wonderful memories when I was here a few days ago)

Joseph and his father taking a pedicab in the hutongs in 1989

Joseph's father, Smith Shumway, with some new Chinese friends.

Hutong shopping in 1989

Going on an excursion in the hutongs with Smith and Sarah Shumway, Joseph, and our little girls who turned one and two in China.