Welcome to Moment Sketchers

Hello! My name is Candace, and I’m a sketch artist with a passion for helping you connect with the world through art. Pull out your sketchbook and watercolors and find your favorite view — I’m glad you’re here!

“And suddenly you know: It’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.”

― Meister Eckhart

Since publishing our first Geography of Connection map last week, what has been especially thrilling for me is seeing how the map continues to resonate with people. I’ve loved reading every one of your comments—both on the blog and across social media—and one contributor named Gayle even wrote about it on her blog here.

And then yesterday, during a quick visit to Twitter, I noticed the map had been shared by WordPress Discover—a part of the popular blogging software that highlights interesting stories by WordPress users. Curious, I clicked through to Discover’s homepage and saw that sure enough, our map of connections had been featured there, too.

It was such a fun surprise and honor to see these mentions from WordPress:

The Geography of Connection map on WordPress

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Now, one week later, I can’t help thinking:

Let’s make some more maps, shall we?

But! I’m going to need your help again…

1. This time, let’s narrow our focus on Asia. I can’t wait to hear your story from any corner of the continent, be it from Mongolia or Malaysia, Tibet or Taiwan. (I know it’s a big continent, but know that I welcome your stories from any region of Asia.)

2. I’d also like to invite you to focus especially on stories of connection. The stories you shared last time about the encounters and connections you’ve made around the world were so moving to read, it feels important to keep highlighting this theme.

3. Finally, I would love your help with one more thing—would you be able to help me share this call-out for stories? If you know someone who’s been to Asia, feel free to send them this link. I would love to include as many voices and experiences as possible as this project keeps evolving.

The Geography of Connection map

Our first map of connections…I can’t wait to hear more of your stories from Asia soon.

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And because everything’s more fun with a giveaway…

In keeping with our focus on Asia, this time I’m excited to give away two copies of my own book about the region, Beneath the Lantern’s Glow: Sketches and Stories from Southeast Asia and Japan. To enter, all you need to do is:

1. Leave a comment below, sharing your story of connection from Asia.

2. Please leave your comment by noon EST next Thursday, the 15th of December, and I’ll choose two winners at random then.

3. And I want to mention again that I’ll be happy to ship the books anywhere in the world, so if you’re reading this from outside the U.S., I hope you won’t hesitate to enter.

I’ll be eagerly awaiting your stories, friends! The ones you shared two weeks ago have been an incredible spark of inspiration for me, so I can’t wait to keep watching this project grow.

With gratitude,

Beneath the Lantern's Glow

My first book of sketches and stories from Asia…two copies will be headed your way soon!

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  • Syowoe

    Hi Candace, Thanks so much for the reference to my blog. So exciting to see my name there! ha ha. Yes, my real name is Gayle. What a great idea to do another call for stories about Asia and connection. Hopefully the response will be even grander. I’m thinking…

    • You are so very welcome, Gayle! It’s been wonderful connecting with you through this project. I so loved your last story from Cambodia, and can’t wait to read more of your tales from Asia, if there are others you’d like to share 🙂

  • Anwar

    Which parts of Asia specifically are you looking for 🙂 Such a big continent. But since you are giving away a book on East Asia perhaps I’ll share a short story from that location. One of my favorite connections from Japan.

    Hmm. So once when I was in Japan I was out exploring Western Honshu on the Island of Miyajima near Hiroshima. I was wandering about and heard some bird sounds and went to investigate. I saw an old man with a recording and quite an extensive photography setup doing some bird photography and of course I politely said “Ohayo Gozaimasu” (Good Morning). He said a lot quickly back to me, however it was far more than my limited Japanese could handle so he switched into English and spoke incredibly well. We chatted for a few minutes and I asked him some directions but didn’t want to disturb him. A few minutes later as I was walking away I saw him running after me with cameras, tripod and bags in hand so I stopped to let him catch up. He said he was going the same direction and figured he would walk along with me. Turns out he used to work for the ministry of Education in Japan and used to travel to the US several times over his career. However he was now retired and this was the first time he used English in over a decade! He lived such a fascinating life and had such an interesting career and it was wonderful getting to connect with him while on Miyajima there.

    Encounters are my favorite aspect of travel. It is what I always remember most about my journeys and always what stays with me long after many of the other moments have faded.

    • Anwar, thanks so much for taking the time to share this story–having spent a bit of time in Japan myself, I could so envision this encounter unfolding as it did 🙂 When I was walking the 88 Temple Circuit on Shodoshima Island a few years ago, I loved how I kept intersecting with locals as they went about their day–and how a simple, polite greeting could also be the key to a beautiful encounter with them, just like it was with your friend in Japan. Thank you again, and I can’t wait to share the new maps with you soon!

  • TJ Wood

    This is so exciting!! We met at a Basement series reading in SF–in the bathroom! I recognized you from your blog where I’d been following your time in a yurt in the Northwest. Small world sometimes 🙂 I love these connections. Here’s a short story–I’m happy to write more if you’d like. I totally see this as a book project–a collection of essays from people about connection around the world. You already have the perfect title. I’d love to collaborate on something like this. Anyway, here’s my blurb for now:

    A few days after graduating high school at the age of 17, I joined a group of six others on a missionary trip to Lanyu or Orchid Island, 65 km off
    the southeast coast of Taiwan. It was my first trip overseas and I would be there most of the summer. The air was sticky hot and sucked the energy from my body by mid-morning in the first few days of acclimating from California’s dry Central Valley summer. After playing games with the village kids one day, I sat in a chair and placed my head across my folded arms on a wooden table to rest for a few minutes. I must have dozed off and somewhere in a dream state, I was yearning for coffee. I could even smell dark roasted beans. A gentle touch on my arm brought me back to the present and when I opened my eyes, there was a small white porcelain cup of steaming brown liquid in front of me. An older student from National Taiwan University who was on the island helping to interpret was sitting next to me, a gentle smile on his face. He had used one of his few
    precious packets of instant coffee to share with me. I wrapped both hands around the cup and bowed my head slightly. “Xiè xie,” I told him. Thank you. He had no idea that simple act of kindness would remain with me nearly 30 years later.

    • Trina! I totally remember that night at the Basement reading series, so it’s such a fun moment to reconnect with you here on the blog again 🙂 Firstly, I can’t thank you enough for sharing this moment of connection from Taiwan–it is *exactly* the kind of story I envision this project being built of. I loved reading about such a simple, beautiful gesture of kindness from the older student, and can completely understand how such a moment would remain with you thirty years later. Also, I’m thrilled to say this project has definitely begun to feel like a book to me as well, and I can’t wait to share more details about that here soon–so I really appreciate your kind words and encouragement. For now, thank you so much again for this moving contribution–I hope all has been very well with you in the last year!

  • Corinne Vail

    One of my favorite connections in Asia was with Hamza, a guide my daughter and I had in the Taman Negara National Park of Malaysia. We went on a day hike with him and at one point he and I both had to talk my daughter into climbing down into some bat caves. I’m a little claustrophobic, and once we both got down there I was chastising myself and at the same time trying not to let Erika see my panic. Honestly, it was not the best part of the hike and upon exiting, we were covered in gloopy mud and I’m sure lots of bat guano. Erika was near tears, and Hamza took a wet rag and started cleaning her legs. He was so sweet, and from that moment on we walked with him and talked about all kinds of things, even the difference between Sunni (which he was) and Shia Muslims.

    All of the sudden, he stopped and got all excited. He had spotted a large patch of the biggest white mushrooms I’d ever seen. He really wanted to harvest them and take them to his wife, so he pleaded with me to lead the small group back to the cabins assuring me it was a straight shot. I just had to follow the path. I couldn’t say no, but boy was I nervous that it wouldn’t be that simple. Luckily we all made it back. Erika and I were starting to relax in our cabin when Hamza showed up at our door, arms laden with these gigantic mushrooms! The only thing bigger was his smile.

    • Corinne, I can’t say enough how much I love this story–thank you so much for sharing it. It also reminded me so much of one of my own encounters in Turkey once, when I was walking the Evliya Celebi Way. Two older local men walked with me for an hour one morning, and along the way, one of them discovered an enormous white mushroom along the path, plucked it up, and proudly carried it with him for the rest of our time together. Just as you wrote, the joy and pride he felt in his discovery was almost visceral 🙂 It’s so fun to think of a similar experience happening for you and your daughter in Malaysia, and I so can’t wait to illustrate your story on a map–thank you again!

  • Johanna Weiss

    I was recently in India, Pondicherry to be exact, where I had been invited by a friend living in Melbourne, Australia to run a training project for some gypsy women being managed by a local organisation. This friend gave me a few contacts of locals in Pondi including her favourite and most reliable TUk Tuk Driver named Ramesh. And so during my stay, I called Ramesh a couple of times to drive me somewhere, but he was busy both times and so I used other drivers. One night, whilst being driven to nearby Auroville and looking for a specific street, my new driver stopped along side a very busy road to ask another tuk tuk driver if he knew the address. He did. And as we were about to drive away, unbenownst to my driver, he thrust his business card into my hand should I ever need his services as a driver. I gladly took his card, as one never knows what one will need.
    Later that night, after a long dinner with friends, I decided to call this new driver referring to the number on the business card I had just received earlier in the evening. I waited patiently for quite awhile on the side of the road in the dark for the driver to arrive… Just as I was about to give up and hail a passing tuk tuk driver, the driver arrived. And as we started driving back to pondicherry, he said to me. “You are working with the gypsy women in pondicherry !” ” What! What did you say,” I replied not believing what I had heard.
    He repeated this statement.
    I sat stunned as he continued on. “You are friends with the melbourne woman! ” By this stage I was flabbergasted and asked him , what was he saying, how did he know where I worked, How on earth did he know my connection with the friend in Melbourne.
    There are 10,000 tuk tuk drivers in Pondicherry. And the one man who was stopped earlier in the evening by my first driver and asked directions AND who happened to give me his card, also just HAPPENED to be the very same person I had been calling days earlier as the tuk tuk driver contact my friend had alerted me to. And how on earth did he know who I was? Well I had been given a local phone in India with a local sim card, and when I called Ramesh from the restaurant that night , he recognised the number as the one that my melbourne friend also uses when she is visiting this charity organisation, the same organisation who lent me the phone.
    So one VERY astute tuk tuk driver and one in 10,000 odds of having gotten his card through a chance meeting on the side of the road asking directions and then to realise that he was the very same driver I had been calling days earlier. Well, what are the chances?. We laughed that night all the way from Auroville to Pondicherry.

    • This is such a fun tale of serendipity, Johanna–and what amazes me even more is that just two comments above yours, Gaye shared a very similar story of a chance encounter from India…how great is that? 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing this, and know I’m so looking forward to creating a map of chance connections in India soon!

  • Bethany N. Bella

    Wow wow wow, I am so excited for you – my hands are shaking! I know the feeling of passion-projects come to life, and this one is really so very thrilling to watch unfold. I’m honored and humbled to be a part of it. (I shared this recent post with some friends in an organization called “Ohio University’s Southeast Asian Students Association,” of which I was a member last year. I hope you can get some more submissions from this group over the next week or so — they’ve got some amazing stories to tell.)

    Not sure if I’m “permitted” to share a second story with this second map, but I have a very powerful connection story from my recent travels to Cambodia that I can’t stop sharing with anyone who asks about my time in SE Asia. Just being able to share it here again means the world to me. (For anyone interested… I charted my whole Cambodia journey diary-entry style — with photos sprinkled throughout — here on my memoir blog http://labellamemoir.tumblr.com/cambodia2016).

    The story starts here, at a Cambodian ‘circus’, exactly one day after watching the sunrise unfold at Angkor Wat — one of the world’s very ancient wonders. (As if THAT experience wasn’t enough!). A little lengthy, written hours-after and taken straight as a sample from my blog, here goes the connection story from Siem Reap, Cambodia, that will last me a lifetime:

    “First off, the Cambodian “circus” is not a circus – it’s a theatrical performance that just happens to include acrobatics. It’s a story – a story told through song, acting, dancing, painting, and expression. And it’s all performed by young adults.
    But not Cambodia’s “finest,” at least by economic standards. These young people were taken from the poverty line, Cambodia’s streets, and made whole again through the practice of traditional art forms. And with a free meal a day, training, community, and education, these young people really are the lotus flowers of Cambodia’s 21st century.
    The performance we witnessed last night, all huddled underneath a circular, circus-esque tent, told the story of one of the circus founders. From child solider during the Khmer Rouge to the aftermath and the rebuilding of a nation with so much loss, the performance was stunning – and entertaining! My mouth was hanging open in awe for most of the performance. This is why I became a dancer. This is why I chose to stick with show choir: The power of performance. There is nothing short of exhilaration when you perform and are able to give an audience an emotion you yourself feel with your whole body. It’s like communicating an unspoken language of empathy, rage, beauty, and mystery – all in the contortions and sounds of the body. The gift of performance – not strength, not power, not intelligence – is arguably the most sacred of all human abilities.
    Though the entire show – masterpiece, really – was jaw-dropping-ly spectacular, I do have a favorite moment. One of the performers appeared on stage only to paint on canvases in the background, as the acrobats danced around the front of the intimate stage. During the beginning scenes, he gracefully painted a portrait of a Buddha – free-form, practically finger-painting, but astonishing in its detail and shading. But about a quarter of the way through the 90-min. show, he appeared again. This time, he smeared the Buddha with grey paint, symbolizing the erasing of religion during the Khmer Rouge take-over in the late 1970s. But what he painted next I’ll never forget. With a sponge dipped in black, he stamped the canvas, with what I thought at first were fish. Instead it was bombs. Bombs falling from the sky – but not just any bombs: American bombs. It is said that the United States dropped more bombs in Cambodia between 1965 and 1973 than all of the Allied bombs dropped in World War II. I dare not imagine the magnitude of such a mere statement of fact.
    The painter then dipped his hands in a bucket of red paint. As the music climaxed in a crescendo, and the pianist slammed the keys two rows below me, the painter began throwing flecks of red paint at the bombs, each fist-full of more intensity. All at once he began chucking the paint so ferociously on the canvas it splattered the ground. Like the blood of hundreds of thousands of Cambodians, screaming from destruction. American-born destruction.
    The painter stopped. The music swelled. The tears in my eyes fought desperately to stay. They did then, they don’t now.
    Because for as much as I like to cling to my immigrant roots and shun the sometimes shameful American culture I encounter, I am an American. It surfaced when I spoke with my tuk tuk driver at dinner during the night market adventure. It exploded on me when I watched this painting unfold.
    I have to carry the responsibility of my country’s actions – both the phenomenal and the inhumane – everywhere I go. It is a skin I cannot shed, an identity I can never relinquish – even if I move abroad, I will always be “from America.”
    But to approach this Cambodian after the performance – a young man of my age – and to look him in the eyes, a single breath between us, both of us knowing the truth of our tangled, unspoken past as enemy countries, was the most powerful experience of all.
    I keep thinking of the paint splattering, and the fierceness at which he threw the paint – with a rage so visceral it stung – as I now look up at the sky and hold back gasps of tears. Up at the sky. A sky that I could barely gaze at on our bus ride to Siem Reap. Because it looked just like the clouds outside my bedroom window at home, in the comforts of suburbia.
    The sky shouldn’t look the same when poverty begets a wasteland of waste, dust, and broken houses. The sky shouldn’t look the same when the only difference are the bombs piercing the stratosphere. The sky shouldn’t look the same on the other side of the world, a place often forgotten and “still developing.” But it does. Dear God, it does.
    Then how did we let it happen? How did we let bombs and missiles and destruction rain down like water, from a sky that looks just like “ours”? On to a people with eyes and hair and glistening sweat on their backs when they work, like us? Just like us.
    The sky betrays me. It betrays us all.” http://labellamemoir.tumblr.com/post/144396918352/cambodia-diary-days-9-10

    • Dear Bethany–where do I even begin? Firstly, thank you for your lovely words of encouragement and support! Please know they mean so much, and it’s great to be able to share in my excitement for this new project with you 🙂 Thank you as well for sharing this post with the Southeast Asian students’ association at your university–I’d be honored to hear their stories. But finally, I’ve reserved the biggest portion of my gratitude to you for trusting me with such a moving, thought-provoking story from Cambodia–it will be an honor for me to include it in the project. As always, it’s a joy to be connected with you!

      • Bethany N. Bella

        Thank you for reading my story, Candace! Those and other memories from Cambodia will be forever on my mind and heart. I discovered the serendipity of travel and connection this summer, and I can’t wait to follow that curiosity for the rest of my days! Looking forward to more project updates! xx

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  • Gaye Gibson

    My connection story comes from India. Back in 2003, I was in Kanyakumari, on the very southern tip of India. I was at the Wandering Monk Memorial and was the only Caucasian person there. I had several groups of people come up to me wanting to practice their English and to have their picture taken with me. I didn’t know their names at the time, but Sunil, his wife Sarita and their two daughters Sujata and Shubhada approached me and asked me all the usual questions – What’s your name? Where are you from? What is your job? Where is your husband? We chatted briefly, then went our separate ways. By chance, six days later (according to my diary) we met again in Munnar (over 350 km away from Kanyakumari). When I spoke with them in Kanyakumari, we never spoke about where we were going next. Heck, I didn’t even know where I was going next! There are over a BILLION people in India. What are the chances of meeting again? This time when we met, they invited me to come and stay with them in their home, and we have been friends ever since. We always say that our friendship was meant to be.

    • Thank you so much for sharing this story, Gaye! It’s wonderful to hear from you, and I especially loved reading such a fun tale of serendipity from India 🙂 Perfectly enough, two comments below yours there is a very similar tale of a chance encounter from India, so I’m excited to juxtapose these two stories together on a map of the country soon. I hope you’ve been very well!

  • Jamie Sterling

    I was on a night train to Bandung to catch a flight at the end of a near month-long trip to Indonesia. I was trying to save money on accommodations but hadn’t really planned for the fact that the train got in at 3am. Not being a tourist destination, I was the only foreign person on the train and was seated next to a middle-aged Indonesian woman. She spoke very little English and I, no Indonesian. It wasn’t until our train had almost arrived that we began communicating. She was a mother of two on her way home from visiting a man, a love interest. She was concerned that I was a woman traveling alone and asked me where I was going to stay. I told her that I had no plans. She insisted I stay with her. Always looking for opportunities to genuinely interact with locals, I agreed.

    When the train arrived, she hailed a taxi and took me home with her. It was a 3-storey townhouse of sorts with a storefront on a big street. At first, she started setting up a room for me on the main floor. Then she thought about it a moment, decided I wouldn’t be comfortable there by myself and led me up to the third floor. Once there, she laid down some blankets and motioned for me to take a spot on the two mattresses that were pushed together on the floor of a small room. Her young daughter was already asleep on the far side, I laid down on the opposite side, and she climbed in between us.

    In the morning she asked me if I wanted breakfast. I thought she had made some for her children but she came back with two packets of fried rice she had just bought off the street. I couldn’t believe her kindness. She asked me what I would do that day, I told her I wanted to find some souvenirs for my family so she brought me on the city bus and took me around to different shopping malls in the city. When we finally parted ways, the experience had become the highlight of my entire trip – not because I saw or did anything particular interesting, but because I had the opportunity to connect with such a caring and generous person.

    • Dear Jamie–thank you so much for sharing this story here! I loved reading it, not least because I’ve so been there myself 🙂 I remember arriving by train in southern India once, also in the middle of the night, and not having any accommodation booked either. I ended up meeting a local policeman, who invited me to sleep at his family’s house, where his wife kindly set up a mattress on the floor for me in a spare room. That was a few years ago now, but reading your story brought the memory of their kindness and hospitality right back for me–so thank you for that. It’ll be an honor to create a map of Indonesia for your story soon!

  • Syowoe

    One other story does come to mind immediately. It actually has a very significant travel lesson in it relating to double checking your travel itinerary and not just making assumptions based on faulty memory.

    I had finished travelling in Thailand for a month and in hindsight I had carefully arranged to arrive back into Bangkok to be near a specific airport so that I could catch my flight to Phnom Penh and the next leg of my journey.

    Upon arrival at the bus station, I was feeling totally relaxed, thinking to myself that it would take a mere 15 minutes or so to get to the airport from where I was and I had intentionally worked out that connection in the past. Now, as I recall this in my memory, it gets very confusing to me as to how I could have been wrong but when I told the taxi driver where I was going, he replied in very broken English, “That’s going to take at least an hour.

    What!? I couldn’t believe it. Was he sure? Was he positive?

    If we hurried we might make the plane. Maybe not. I was freaking out. I told him I needed to catch that plane and he proceeded to take off as fast as he could, weaving in and out of traffic, me adding intermittent positive encouragement about his driving technique from the back seat all the while feeling like I’d just become an extra in some James Bond film given how dangerously fast (but expertly) he was weaving in and out of traffic. It took a very long time. At least an hour of full on fight and flight adrenalin rush. About 5 minutes from the airport I realized that I was too late. I wasn’t going to make it. I’d never missed a plane in my life. In hindsight, there’s almost always another plane. No need to panic! (lesson learned).

    When we finally arrived, I got out, gave him all the cash I had in my wallet (and didn’t have enough to give him a tip which I felt horrible about) only to reach the check-in counter. They had no record of me. After a bit of time, they said, “You’re at the wrong airport. You were supposed to fly out of Don Mueang! That was the airport that I’d been right next to before I’d found a cab. I must have given him the wrong name: the Suvarnabhumi airport which was an hour away and he hadn’t bothered to double check that it wasn’t the one we were right next to. In hindsight, I’m just realizing that perhaps this was intentional on his part but let’s not go there.

    After getting over my slight feeling of discombobulation upon arrival at the wrong airport, I got in a line-up I was directed to and the woman in front of me had missed her plane as well, the same plane. We started chatting and it turned out that she was from the North Shuswap – not just a fellow Canadian, but I knew the Shuswap because I too had lived there many years ago when I worked there as a community newspaper reporter.

    I no longer recall her name but she had been to Cambodia many times and she was returning. Thanks to her, I had a very easy introduction to Phnom Penh. She ordered a Tuk Tuk when we arrived in Cambodia in darkness.

    I will never forget what it felt like to be in that tuk tuk, as we approached a major intersection for the first time, no traffic lights, just a swarming ballet of motorbikes, big trucks makeshift varieties of transport and every imaginable thing on wheels converging. I was so in awe and a little freaked out at the organized chaos that I think I actually swore our loud as we approached the first major intersection, both impressed and fearing for my life. I can still recall the exhilaration, the awe and the internal recognition that THIS was what adventure was supposed to feel like. I will remember that intro to Phnom Penh for as long as I live and I’m forever grateful for the fellow Canadian who eased my introduction to the city that first evening. She dropped me off at my hotel, I gave her my share of the fare, and we wished each other well.

    • Gayle, having once gone to the wrong airport in Washington D.C., my heart practically started to race for you here–so vividly can I remember my own panic and confusion 🙂 But it was amazing to read about how the universe transformed that situation and opened up the perfect connection for you–a connection even more rewarding than making that first flight, perhaps! The last paragraph you wrote is so powerful, filled with every visceral sensation that hits when you arrive in a new country for the first time (especially after dark), so I can’t wait to include it on the map for Cambodia. Thank you again for sharing it!

      • Syowoe

        Yes. Ultimate paying attention of the best kind!

  • Hillary

    Candace — This is such fantastic news and (clearly) this idea is resonating with travelers the world over. My story comes from Taiwan, where I learned some very real lessons about what it means to be the daughter of an Asian-American.
    Fifty some odd years ago, my grandmother and grandfather left Taiwan with one stiff leather trunk and a marriage certificate. There was no time to pack anything else before boarding the Air Force plane that would take them to their new home in Rhode Island. Cherub-faced and 18, my grandmother didn’t speak a lick of English when she arrived, but over time assimilated to America and imitated the coiffed women she saw every Sunday at the town’s First Baptist Church.

    Within the year my mother was born. Only her skin and her hair are Taiwanese. Inside – she is all American-made. My mother’s relationship with her parents was strained at best, frayed long ago by teenage grudges and years of distrust. Family get-togethers consisted of brief kinda-hugs and awkward silences. The only “I love yous” were exchanged through birthday cards, dutifully sent every February 21st.

    So, when my grandmother announced she would be making her final trip to her homeland, I called a travel agent, took two weeks off from work and purchased a plane ticket that would take me halfway around the world.

    To tell the truth, I’m not really sure what I expected. A part of me thought that by taking this trip it would mend the rift between our families, that it would somehow solve all of the problems and mistakes of the past. Sometimes that’s the only way to remember who you really are; to go back to where it all began. In doing so, you must peel back each layer of your skin, and those of your mother, and your mother’s mother, until all that’s left is bone. No grudges. No insults. No scars. Only then can you see you’re really the same.

    • “Only then can you see you’re really the same.” Hillary, this is such a moving story to read, and it ends on such a powerful line…I’m humbled and grateful you took the time to share it with us, and I can’t wait to keep sharing the evolution of this project with you!

  • I am such a fan of your work – and of the spirit of this project – that I absolutely have to add my humble little story to the pile:

    Almost a decade ago, I did volunteer work at a local school in Pokhara, Nepal, and for those two months, I lived with a host family. Besides one host brother, it was a home full of women (8 of us!). I was the type of person who usually preferred to be out and about rather than at home, but everything changed when I began living with the Acharya women. I’m not sure why, but every day after school I hurried home to be with them all. We did literally nothing. We sat on a mat in the garden and braided one another’s hair. We hand-washed clothes. I studied my Nepali book and they helped me with my pronunciation. I taught the maid’s younger sister how to read and write. We drank tea. We watched Nepali soap operas. I read the local newspaper. We giggled, a lot. They taught me how to cook daal bhaat.
    Pokhara is a beautiful little city at the edge of the Annapurna Mountains, but I saw very little of it besides the back yard of my host family’s home. Yet, when I look back on my two months in Pokhara, I feel no regret – instead, I feel warm and cradled, much like I feel when I think of my own family home in Canada. It’s been a decade, and I’m actually in the middle of planning a trip back to Nepal to reconnect with them after all these years!

    • Brittany, as I shared in my quick email to you last night, I can’t thank you enough for sharing this story with us…I just love it so much! I can completely understand how your time with the Archarya women was at once simple and profound, and it’s thrilling to hear you’ll have the chance to connect with them soon 🙂 Sending big hugs and gratitude your way today!

  • A brilliant idea, Candace. Such a great way to show how much travelling makes the world a smaller yet not less diverse place.

    My little story comes from the western tip of the continent, where the ‘East’ is rather near than far. In the very southeast of Anatolia, where Turkey borders to Syria. I spent quite some weeks, months actually over the last nine or ten years over there, doing field research excavating a phenomenal 12,000 year-old ancient site of early ritual and the dawn of our very own sedentary lifestyle of farming communities.

    Anyway, always curious en route and sticking my nose into things which might – or might not – be of my business (trying to see spots usually not covered in the glossy coffee table books, more often than not with sketchbook and pencil in my satchel), one day I unexpectedly found myself in the middle of the mandatory Friday prayer.

    It all started with the desire to visit Urfa’s ‘Ulu Cami’ (the Great Mosque) which I passed so many times without ever taking a moment to have a closer look inside. Well, to be honest, actually I intended trying to crest the nearby tower, obviously not a minaret but more resembling a bell tower in Byzantine tradition. Which it actually is. I was thinking the view from up there upon the narrow old town alleyways must be fantastic. Of course, the door was locked. So I approached one of the locals sitting nearby, asking for somebody who might know about the accessibility of that tower and I was helpfully directed to the Hodja who was – apparently – preparing for the upcoming sermon. Kindly greeting and welcoming me, he listened to my concern which I tried to put forward with my rather limited knowledge of Turkish. He understood. And kindly but deeply regretted that it was impossible to enter the tower. To reduce the disappointment he invited me to visit the mosque instead. Well, that was an invitation I accepted gladly as you surely would have imagined already.

    The prayer room’s still empty as I enter. Two elderly men, engrossed in conversation, are greeting with a nod as I pass, in the back two other men are busy murmuring reciting suras. After having a look around I decide to spend some time waiting in the forecourt to attend the much-quoted Friday’s sermon and prayer. My curiosity was piqued.

    It still took some time, but then the first groups of older men appeared on the scene (interestingly enough this shouldn’t change much – at least here and today the audience mostly consisted of old men, younger people attending the service remained rare). They are greeting each other extensively before settling at the well in the centre of the courtyard to thoroughly wash their hands, feet and faces – as the ritual requires. With the call to prayer, the room’s finally filling completely. Latecomers are looking for space in the rear, where I came to rest as well. After consciously pausing for a moment and the necessary obeisance, everyone is trying to find a comfortable position as it is about time to listen to the sermon (and as in probably every divine service around the world, not everyone succeeds in staying the course with undivided attention).

    And while taking photos inside a mosque during prayer would have been downright offending, people actually encouraged and endorsed a quick sketch. Really quite a fascinating Friday morning …

    • Jens, I continue to be so very fascinated by your livelihood and profession 🙂 I love catching your updates online, so it’s an especial honor to have you share one of your stories here. Having spent a few weeks in Turkey myself, this story took me right back there, and I can vividly remember what an integral part of each day the call to prayer is. When I was trekking across Anatolia, I especially looked forward to Fridays, when there would always be a great commotion in the villages as the men headed to the mosque. I’m so glad you had this moment of connection in Anatolia–and thank you again for sharing it with us!

  • Treava

    Hi Candace
    Although I have yet to travel east beyond Russia I just wanted to commend you on such an amazing venture. It just goes to show the that the world can be such a wonderful, welcoming place and it is so refreshing to read about good things and good connections. The truly warm and heartfelt abilities of people all over the world.
    Thank you Candace!

    • Dear Treava, I can’t thank you enough for your kind words and encouragement here–please know how much they mean to me, especially in these early stages of the project’s evolution. And I can’t wait to hear one of your stories of connection from Russia once we get to mapping Europe! 🙂

  • Pauline Susanto

    What a great idea!! I can’t recall anything from Asia at the moment. I did have this thought though: I notice that I make these connections when I travel on my own. There’s something about being anonymous that transforms me to become a more confident version of myself and so I don’t find it hard to reach out and start a conversation with a total stranger. When I travel with friends, I find that we stay within our own circle and barely reach out to others. Do you find this to be the case with your travels as well?

    • Pauline, I only need one word to answer you: YES. That is absolutely the case for me as well 🙂 Although I do enjoy traveling with family and friends, I think it’s for very reason you mentioned that my heart will always love traveling alone the most–there’s just something about it that opens you up, makes you more deeply aware of the world around you, and invites connections that don’t seem to come as quickly when you’re traveling in a group.

      By the way, I believe you mentioned before that your family is from Indonesia…if you happen to have a moment of connection related to visiting family there, please feel free to send it to me–I’d love to include all kinds of connections in this project, so that could be an especially interesting one to explore 🙂

      • Pauline Susanto

        it’s strange how this whole solo travel works. I loved my time on the Camino precisely because of everything you and I mentioned above, but I had such a difficult time being on my own on my most recent trip to Europe. it’s almost like I forgot how to be on my own. I’m not sure what it is – maybe I just needed the time to get used to it before I can fully enjoy it and open my heart to my surrounding. I’m not going to give up on it yet, I think I’ll have to give it another try before I can actually say “I don’t like solo travel”.

        Yes! My family is from Indonesia!! I can’t recall anything from the top of my head now, but I’ll be sure to send it to you sometime this weekend!

        • Thanks so much for sharing about your latest trip to Europe, Pauline–and please know how much I understand! I wonder if part of the magic of the Camino–and other physical journeys and treks–is that while you are technically traveling alone, it’s kind of a structured aloneness, isn’t it? Because you’re also in a place to come in contact with other pilgrims on a regular basis, and because of the structure of the walk itself, your mind doesn’t have so much time and space to wander.

          For me, traveling on my own without a physical journey to follow means my head often has way too much time to think 🙂 There’s definitely a period of transition to become comfortable with myself again, and to quiet my head down a little bit as I form new rituals on my own. I hope that all makes at least a little sense, and is of some help to you! As always, I’m sending a big hug from Montevideo to Toronto. xoxo

  • Kelli

    As always, Candace, I find your writing just as moving as your artwork!

    I remember a muggy morning in Mon State, Myanmar, my tailbone sore from smashing into the wooden seat of the truck bed. Without complaint, at least 30 passengers bounced and braced themselves against each other; Kachin pilgrims, they’d braved threats of violence to travel from their distant northern state to the three golden, balancing boulders of Nwa-la-bo Pagoda. After an especially jolting rut, the woman ahead of me grabbed my arms, wrapped them tightly under her bosom and held me in place.

    None of us were supposed to bow under the shade of that precarious pagoda. The Kachin ethnic group was fighting with Burmese military, and we – as Westerners permitted inside the country just days before the historic 2012 bi-election – were supposed to stay in Yangon, avoid areas of civilian unrest.

    Yet we climbed down from the truck, stretching tight calves and shaking hands like mad survivors. If you ask me, faith brought us together. Faith folded me into the embrace of that nameless mother. It led us around the temple complex with joyous smiles, connecting us to a hundred strangers with one common belief: travel is a spiritual journey, best when shared.

    Best of luck with this, and many more map connections!

    • Dear Kelli, thank you so much for your kind words here, but more importantly, thank you for sharing such a moving and beautiful story. You took me right there to that truck bed, where I’m so glad I also got to meet the nameless mother through your experience. It will be a true honor to include your story in the next set of maps from Asia!

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  • Princess Lillie Almond

    Smashing! What a beautiful idea. Maybe my story was made for this moment.

    Wandering through the Philippines and unsure why, lost, tired, sweaty, this kitten was giving up. And then she saw a man.
    Something within Kitten pushed her to pounce after this random stranger, tall amongst his
    Filipino surroundings.

    “Excuse me, sorry, you’re white, sorry, no- no, yes no sorry that’s wrong, I’m not racist!”

    Confusion on his face, bewilderment on that of his lady friend.

    Kitten’s words pour out, “Sorry, yes well I’m hot- I’m really tired. I’ve come here because I was in Singapore and I wasn’t going to and then my best friend in the world was coming at the time that I was leaving Singapore and so I knew that I
    was meant to come- like, meant to, you know?”

    He stares.

    “So now I’m here and I’m staying in this area really far from here and here it is on the map and I’m just giving up and I don’t know why I’ve come to this country or what there even is to see here and I’m just asking you because I don’t see ANY tourists or like- stuff- and I don’t know what is around here, and nobody understands me… I’m about to go back to my creepy hostel because I give up…”

    Breathing remains difficult, but Kitten’s getting there.

    “Funny that you asked me, I can’t think of anyone more fitting for you to have stumbled into.” He’s pretty confident. No, very. The scribbling begins and he draws maps and tells me about the area and how ridiculous where I’m staying is, and I apologetically look on at his lady friend, trying to be as unintrusive as possible, in all my intrusiveness.

    Doodle after doodle later, this very man, Bruce Curran, one of the Philippines’ most prized writers and knowledgeable expats, invites me to Makati Avenue to meet his friends. Kitten paws around the sights he tells me about- being a cat in the streets and alleyways of Manila, and later, begin the journey to Bruce’s area of residence.

    Despite getting profusely lost en route, not understanding the perils of the local travel, and drowning in the logistical nightmare that is Filipino transport, Kitten is shocked to this very day that she made it. And boy, was it worth it. She moved her things to Bruce’s spare room the next day and he introduced her to a bunch of locals, and to some of his writing projects. Bruce’s passion for this myriad of islands is contagious. He introduces Kitten to a Filipina/ angel. The angel takes Kitten around the rural road of the islandic outskirts, and teaches kitten what it means to be born and raised in the Philippines. The angel has taken the day off from the rice fields and borrowed her father’s work
    Jeepney, all to tour Kitten around and display the generosity of the Philippines. She gives all she can and more, representing the nation’s heart.

    And so we must listen to our instincts, when they tell us to pounce after random strangers- because our instincts are really just our ancestors, telling us our futures that they have already written.

    • Hi Lillie! Thanks so much for taking the time to share these stories from the Philippines and Indonesia–they both sound like they were fascinating experiences for you. For this project, though, I feel the stories of connection will most resonate with people if they’re told from a first-person perspective 🙂 If you’re interested in sharing these stories from your own perspective, please feel free to send them to me again to [email protected]!

  • Princess Lillie Almond

    I suppose this is my second one, in hope it’s not too late!

    The Road To Kintamani is Broken

    Kitten hired a motorbike in Bali, much to the disdain of her hotelier, the locals, and the people who rented it out in the first place. A 22 year old cat should not, apparently, wander around Bali alone on a motorcycle in a bikini and wifebeater vest.

    And this is the reason kitten cannever buy a Go-Pro. Days of riding, countless far-fetched encounters, 2 jack-knifed lorries, never-ending roads and a darn ride longer than expected later, Kitten finds the reason that the locals all kept warning her to turn back, telling her that the weather was too dangerous, telling her that the road to Kintamani was broken.

    It was because the road to Kintamani was broken.

    Living off bananas, market findings and street-cart coffee was doable. The change from 46 degrees Centigrade to minus 3 was doable (sort of). The broken road was not.

    And plans change, and the world turns. Dragging the motorbike up and over the cracked tarmac Kitten regrouped and rescheduled. Despite making it to Kintamani through a weird and wonderful means, she didn’t end up checking out the sunrise over
    the mountain- the journey had been exhausting and the motorbike was long overdue for return.

    Countless petrol stops en route back, and descend back to town began. Immediately, the temperature warmed and the frequency of local house cum petrol stations increased. Small bottles of gasoline began to scatter the streets again- but filling up was less necessary. The mountain was on the decline, and a steep decline at that. As Kitten rolled and rolled, clutch down, she encountered a jack-knifed lorry, finally understanding what that term really meant.

    In the storms of the mountain, the giant container lorry had fallen on its side, blocking the only way down from Kintamani. Seeing countless locals helping and caring was humbling. The creaking on Kitten’s bike heightened just as it was about to give up (definitely not made for the mountains), but just about made it home- and the quiet, calm town of Ubud seemed infinitely tranquil upon return.

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  • In November 2015, my husband and I took our teenage son and daughter and spent 5 months travelling around SE Asia. I believe the Universe places people on our path when we need them most and this certainly happened to us in Thailand.

    We landed in Bangkok late at night after a grueling two weeks in India that had depleted us emotionally and physically and arrived to our Airbnb home, a lovely green oasis in Bang Sue. Our hosts, Charlie and Raewyn, took one look at us and immediately decided we needed some warm food, cold beer and good conversation. Over the next few weeks, we shared late night talks in the open kitchen over Chang beers and were invited to celebrate Loi Kratong and New Year’s with Charlie’s family playing BINGO and exchanging gifts. We visited the orphanage where Raewyn volunteered, played a thousand games of pool and I spent an afternoon with Charlie’s sister who dyed my hair the most wild and glorious shade of red I have ever seen.

    But underneath all of that was the intuitive sense that we needed a little TLC. That we were road weary and home sick. That India had taken its toll. That it was hard to be away from home during the holidays. That my daughter was feeling overwhelmed. And they loved us through it. With smiles and corn fritters and a fridge full of fresh fruit. With sightseeing tips and hugs and late nights of talking about every topic under the sun. And they healed our spirits and allowed us to find our travel joy again.

    After we had been home for a month or so, I got an email from Rae saying how they missed us and thought of us often. We felt exactly the same way and so our friendship has continued through email check ins. Now we are planning and looking forward to taking my mom on her first international trip soon. I think she’ll love Charlie and Rae as much as we do!!

    • “…they healed our spirits and allowed us to find our travel joy again.” Staci, this is such a beautiful homage to your time with Charlie and Raewyn–thank you so much for taking the time to share it with us, and for sharing about the role they played in your family’s journey. I too also believe the universe knows exactly who we need to meet and when, and I will never cease to wonder at how those life-affirming encounters happen at just the right moment. Please know it will be an honor for me to include your story in this project, and that I’m especially thrilled you’ll get to reconnect with Charlie and Rae soon 🙂

  • I had just flown from L.A. to Bangkok. I was traveling alone, and it was my first trip to Asia. I’d taken the train from the airport into the city and got off at the Ramkhanghaeng station. Here, according to Google, I could board a bus to my hostel.

    I was hungry, jet lagged, carrying a backpack that was too heavy. It was after dark, and it was raining. When I found my way out of the train station and down to ground level, there before me was the intersection of Ramkhanghaeng Road and Thanon Kamphaeng Phet 7: the most insane intersection I’d seen in my life. Cars and trucks and motorbikes coming from every direction, no pedestrian crossing. And I had to get to the other side. I took a deep breath, stood next to someone who looked like she knew what she was doing, and, by keeping right next to her, made it across alive.

    I walked up and down but couldn’t find the bus stop. It wasn’t where Google said it should be. I finally decided to walk down to the next stop on the map, on Phetchaburi Road. Which meant crossing another insane intersection, this one even bigger and crazier than the last. I survived somehow, and went in search of the bus.

    Half an hour later, I realized that, actually, my hostel was only about a mile away, and I could have walked there in the time I had been wandering looking for a bus. So I headed south on Sukhumvit 71 Road, weaving among street food stands, motorbikes parked on the sidewalks, cars emerging from side streets, and garbage bins, taking in the sights and scents of my first encounter with Asia. But soon I came to the bridge over the Khlong Tan river – a bridge that is decidedly not pedestrian friendly. A steady stream of trucks and motorcycles barreling over it, and about six inches of clearance on each side.

    I stood there undecided, achey, tired. Then I noticed that there was actually a bus stop on the other side of the road – the southbound side, the direction I needed to go. It was a real, actual bus stop, with signage, benches, and people waiting. I crossed the street (starting to get the hang of it) and stood at the curb, making up my mind that I would board any bus going south, ride it just a block or two, and then get off and continue on foot.

    At this moment, a man approached me. He was elderly, stood six inches shorter than me, and held a cloth bag full of groceries in one hand and an umbrella in the other. He said, “I observe that you appear to be one of those who do not live in Bangkok.” It took me a moment to understand what he was saying, simple as his words were: basically, “You’re not from around here, are you?” I had the feeling he had had to marshal everything he knew of English in order to put that sentence together and had rehearsed his words before he came up to me. He went on, “I wish to offer myself as a source of information.”

    I trusted him immediately. He was exactly what I needed at the moment, a “source of information” but also a kind human being, offering connection and support in the middle of an unfamiliar, overwhelming city, in the dark, in the rain, on my first night in Asia. I showed him the map on my phone and pointed out where I was going. In a few words he explained the bus system (there are private buses and public buses). He was waiting for a public bus because he got a senior discount. His name was Narong, and he was on his way to an event at his old high school. He said, yes, the bus he was waiting for would also take me close to where I wanted to go.

    When the bus arrived, we boarded together, and I followed him to a bench in the back. We talked about our work and our families. With the noise of the bus and our limitations in language, much of what we each said was met by the other with a sorrowful shrug – “I don’t understand.” But it felt like the effort and intention to connect were what was important. We had the opportunity and we were doing our best.

    We got off the bus at the same stop. In the line to leave the bus, we got separated. When I reached the sidewalk and turned around, Narong was gone.

    • Dear Patricia, since you shared your story two days ago, I must’ve read it at least half a dozen times–and every time, I get chills when Narong approaches you. Thank you for taking the time to share such a beautiful, moving moment with us. On a personal level, it reminds me so much of my own time in Thailand and other big cities across Asia–where an angel always seems to appear in our lowest, most overwhelmed moments. But on a greater level, your story speaks to exactly the spirit behind this project, and it will be the greatest honor for me to include it in the first sample chapter of Asia maps. Thank you again for sharing it, and know I’ll be wishing you a wonder-filled holiday season!

      • Candace – I’m so glad that the magic of that moment when Narong appeared came across. The honor will be all mine – thank you for choosing my story for the sample chapter! I’ve adored your blog ever since I encountered it when I was preparing to travel, and I’m delighted to contribute something to your book. Wishing you wonder-full holidays, too!

        • Patricia, please know the magic of that moment absolutely came across! I can’t wait to get started on the next set of maps in January, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted once I illustrate your story 🙂 All the best to you during this holiday season!

  • Bridget Willis Smith

    In the summer of 2010, I was selected to take a 13 day trip to Turkey, sponsored by the Turkish Cultural Foundation. I was mesmerized by the people, the landscapes, the architecture from the moment I arrived. As the days passed, we formed bonds with the bus driver’s son, Okan, who went everywhere with us and often was our go to translator. While wondering through the tiny village of Sirince Köyü, I found one of our older travelers “talking” to a local grandma. Once Okan and I arrived, we learned that she was the wife of the village imam. She asked us into her house to have peaches with her and her husband. We enjoyed the tastiest peaches I have ever had; but more importantly, I had a personal experience to refute all the fear mongering about Muslim imams spreading hate and death toward Americans. My next favorite experience was watching Germany play in the World Cup with about 30 Turkish men in a hotel lobby. The German player, Mesut Özil, is from Turkey, so they love the German team. I screamed and yelled like a local, and I still follow Ozil in the British Premier League.

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  • Jessica Voigts

    On the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Osaka, I sat next to a polished, professional woman in her late 20s. Her English was flawless, and we conversed quickly, aware that the train’s speed just hastened our time together. I learned that she was a tv reporter, and had just been in Tiananmen Square for the uprising. She had seen the protests, the lone man standing there, and had recorded it all, reporting from the sidelines, as it were. Knowing the police were there, and coming, she swallowed the chip with the recording on it, and was able to get out and get home safely – with the recording. We met on the train about a month afterward, and she was still shaken – and just as committed to international journalism and the power of real stories to tell the world what was really happening. She told of the breeze, and the smells, and how it *felt* to be there – not what we would see in photos, but of being scared, and worried, and how everything went to fast.

    Decades later, her experience still sticks with me whenever I see news from places of conflict – how intrepid journalists are, and how strong their belief in their extremely important work. I think of her when I see reporters on the ground, when I read of embedded journalists being killed or held hostage, and when stories break of conflict and atrocities around the world. I’ll never forget her bravery – and the impact on her of witnessing that event. I think of how when we know someone, the world is smaller to us. When we have been somewhere, we care about that place and its people. I honor the work of global journalists, having seen a tiny glimpse into the lives they lead. And, I pursued my own goals of teaching in international education, where the world, cultures, and people are all valuable and important – each and every life. When I teach, I think of her – and how we have to be present and committed to the truth, despite the costs, because that’s the only way toward peace and understanding.

    • Dear Jessie, I can’t begin to thank you enough for taking the time to share this story–wow is pretty much all I’m able to say. From the remarkable journey the journalist had just been on, to the incredible serendipity of your own journey then intersecting with hers on that particular train ride, your story left me in awe of the world and how it works. It was especially moving to read about how her story stays with you still, influencing your own vocation as an international teacher almost thirty years later. It will be such an honor for me to include this moment of connection in the first sample chapter from Asia, and I can’t wait to keep you posted on it once I start creating the new maps in January. All the very best to you in this holiday season, Jessie!

      • Jessica Voigts

        Oh, how lovely to share this more widely! Indeed, it was a seminal moment in my life, one where I realized the power of stories and experiences in teaching about the world. Thanks for including me – happy holidays! xo

        • I love hearing that, Jessie! Thank you so much again, and happy holidays to you as well 🙂 xo

  • Hi Candace!
    Here’s a story that takes place in Gwangju, South Korea two years ago. After teaching English there for nearly a year, my grandma and sister came to visit for two weeks during my summer vacation. One day we took the train from Seoul to Gwangju, where I’d booked us a hostel for two nights. (My grandma has stayed in hostels with us before—she’s awesome!) The full version of what transpired is here, but basically after arriving, we discovered that the hostel worker had never received our reservation back when I’d made it, and they were completely booked. He ended up leading us on a 10-minute walk (it was really hot out, and my grandma can’t walk very fast) to another guesthouse where there was space for the three of us.

    As soon as we saw our room, an empty square with just a trunk sitting in the corner, I knew this was a traditional guesthouse: Koreans traditionally sleep on the floor. My grandma and sister had no idea (my grandma later said she thought the beds were in another room), so later I had to break them the news. (“By the way…”) My grandma had a really rough time sleeping on the floor that first night, but the second day we had an amazing time learning from Soon Mi and her husband—communicating in very broken English and hand signals. She invited us to have fermented tea with her, and then her husband showed us the flutes and instruments that he makes out of bamboo. Later my sister and I climbed their climbing wall, which was in a tiny “gym” room where they teach taekwondo (scroll down to the “Korean tea time” heading here for photos and a more detailed description of those connections.

    Another example of a time where a small road bump turns into a unique human connection!

    • Rebecca, I just adore this story! First of all, your grandmother sounds amazing–I hope I’m that intrepid and awesome when I’m her age 🙂 But on a deeper level, the story of how one hostel hiccup led to you connecting with Soon Mi and her husband, sharing fermented tea, and learning about the art of bamboo musical instruments is truly beautiful, and speaks to the heart of what this project is about. Thank you so much again for taking the time to share this story! <3

  • Treava

    Happy New Year Candace and I am so looking forward to how this amazing project of yours unfolds. I just love these compelling stories and connections.

    • Happy New Year to you as well, Treava! I loved hearing you had a chance to sketch in Algonquin Park yesterday, so it sounds like 2017 is already full of creativity and exploration for you 🙂 Thank you so much for your kind words here as well–for me the most amazing thing about the Atlas of Connection project is that it truly is “our” project…it would never have happened without you and everyone else sharing your stories during the first giveaway, so I’m incredibly grateful for the feeling of collaboration and community surrounding the project. I’m just about to start on the next set of maps this week, so I can’t wait to share them with you very soon!

  • PeteH

    Until pretty recently, my family and I were living in New Delhi, India. We embraced that opportunity. One thing I never tired of was walking the streets of the old quarter, (Old Delhi), at dawn with a camera as the city woke up. Conversely however, this story is from an evening spent near the city center at Gurdwara Bangla Sahib – perhaps the main Sikh temple in Delhi.

    I went there at nightfall to try taking some pictures of the sacred pool that’s found at many of the larger gurdwaras. That didn’t really work out but no matter. Wandering around I found myself pulled into a back room by an older Sikh gentleman. There he introduced me to a group of his colleagues. They were engineers, he explained, responsible for the upkeep and renovation of Delhi’s ten most significant gurdwaras. Soon I found myself seated on the floor sharing a meal with them.

    After a short while we’d sized each other up a bit and gained a small measure of trust and respect. So one of the guys, he tells me that he must ask a most serious question. I brace myself; I wonder if I would be up to the task. “American TV wrestling . . .”, he asks, ” . . . is it real?” (Wrestling is a much-loved and time-honored traditional sport in India.) I explained that it was fake, an act put on by entertainers. There erupted a loud discussion in Punjabi and a general sense of relief was palpable. “Filmy”, I kept hearing, “filmy”. (Think India’s large Bollywood film industry.) We laughed together and they sent me back out to their sacred pool to try again at capturing something worthwhile with my camera.

    I treasure that evening.

    • Dear Pete–thank you so much for sharing such a poignant moment of connection here, and for the beautiful accompanying photo as well. Having spent a lot of time in India a few years ago, one of my favorite things to do in Delhi was also to wander the narrow backstreets of Old Delhi and chat with the myriad tradesmen and vendors who worked there. And while I never had a chance to visit the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib, I can vividly recall another Sikh temple that was along the main road right as you exited Old Delhi, and the many kind people I met there as well. All of that is to say 🙂 I so enjoyed your story, especially as it resonated so much with my own experience in India, and I so appreciate you sharing it with us. Thank you again!

  • PeteH
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